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NEW DELHI : President Ram Nath Kovind has approved The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, aimed at protecting healthcare professionals against violence during health crises such as the covid-19 pandemic now ravaging the world.

The approval given late on Wednesday followed the Union cabinet nod to the ordinance, which makes not just attacks on healthcare personnel, but also those on their property, including their living and working premises, cognizable, non-bailable offences. The ordinance also provides for compensation for injury and damage to or loss of property in such cases.

“Doctors and primary healthcare workers are engaging with the grassroots night and day to contain this pandemic. They are conducting door-to-door visits in affected areas, monitoring quarantined patients, and testing people. The strong law would deter unruly elements while emboldening healthcare workers and assuring them that their safety is being accorded high priority," said Vikram Thaploo, chief executive officer, Apollo Telehealth.

The amendment states that any commission or abetment to acts of violence shall be punished with imprisonment of three months to five years and a fine of 50,000 to 2 lakh. If the attackers cause grievous hurt, they can be imprisoned for six months to seven years with fine of 1 lakh to 5 lakh.

The offender will also be liable to pay compensation to the victim and twice the fair market value for damage of property.

Several states have enacted special laws to protect doctors and other medical personnel in the past. However, existing state laws “do not have such a wide sweep and ambit", said the health ministry. “They generally do not cover harassment at home and workplace and are focused more on physical violence only," it said.

The ordinance covers public and clinical healthcare service providers, such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers, community health workers, and persons empowered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, to take outbreak prevention measures.

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