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Indian hospital segregates Hindu and Muslim coronavirus patients in 'apartheid' wards

Muslim and Hindu patients are placed in separate wards in one Indian hospital [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2020

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Coronavirus patients at an Indian hospital are being placed in separate wards depending on their religion.
A hospital in India is placing Muslim Covid-19 sufferers in a separate ward from Hindu patients, the Indian Express reported Wednesday, after an alleged order from the state government to enact segregation.

Medical Superintendent Dr. Gunvant H Rathod, from Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, said they were given an official government order to segregate the new intakes based on their faith.

"Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients," Dr. Rathod said in comments quoted by The Indian Express.

"It is a decision of the government and you can ask them," he added.

Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel said he had no knowledge of the matter.

"I am not aware of such a decision (on wards as per faith). Generally, there are separate wards for males and females. I will enquire about it," he told The Indian Express.

Ahmedabad Civil Hospital has 1,200 beds set aside for coronavirus patients. Suspected cases are kept separate from confirmed cases while tests are carried out.

Around 150 of the 186 admitted patients have tested positive for coronavirus, at least 40 of which are Muslim.

A patient told The Indian Express: "On Sunday night, the names of 28 men admitted in the first ward were called out. We were then shifted to another ward (C-4)."

"While we were not told why we were being shifted, all the names that were called out belonged to one community. We spoke to one staff member in our ward today and he said this had been done for 'the comfort of both communities.'"

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist government have come under fire for stoking religious tension in the country.

The government's controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which fast tracks naturalisation of foreign-born religious minorities of all faiths in South Asia except Islam, triggered massive unrest in India after it was passed in December last year.

In the months since New Delhi and other areas of India have been rocked by anti-Muslim violence

"Coronavirus in India - Muslim patients are segregated into a different ward from Hindu patients at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital per a Gujarat Hindu-supremacist govt decision. Separate-but-Equal, like the apartheid in South Africa and southern US states," Afons Lopez Tena tweeted.

Read more: India's coronavirus outbreak unmasks the ugly face of Islamophobia

India's nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the biggest in the world covering 1.3 billion people, will be extended until 3 May, Prime Minister Modi said Tuesday. The lockdown has been in effect for three weeks.

The move comes despite complaints from millions of poor Indians, part of a vast underclass who have been left without support as jobs vanish and incomes dry up.

Official figures suggest South Asian nations have so far been relatively unscathed by the epidemic, with around 10,800 cases and 353 deaths in India.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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