Medics around the world face hostility over virus stigma

FILE - In this May 3, 2020, file photo, an Indian Air Force helicopter showers flower petals on the staff of INS Asvini hospital in Mumbai, India as part of Armed Forces' efforts to thank the workers, including doctors, nurses and police personnel, who have been at the forefront of the country's battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities across the world erupt at sundown with collective cheers thanking front-line workers for their selfless battle. But in Egypt, India, the Philippines, Mexico and elsewhere, doctors have been attacked, intimidated and treated as pariahs because of their work. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Officials in Mexico City say they have rescued 14 health workers who had come to the capital to help battle COVID-19 and were subjected to what's called a “virtual kidznapping” in order to demand money from their families.

The city prosecutor's office said in a communique late Tuesday that the health workers were located in two hotels in the Tacubaya district when police were searching for another kidnap victim.

The Mexican Social Security Institute said the workers were threatened via phone or video calls, with the criminals claiming they had control of the hotel surveillance cameras and warning the workers would be attacked if they tried to leave.

Meanwhile, the criminals called the workers' relatives and “inform them that they were holding their family members and if they didn't deposit a certain quantity of money, would do them harm," according to the prosecutor's office.

The Social Security Institute said the workers have mostly come to the capital from the northern state of Nuevo Leon.

It didn't immediately appear to be part of the harassment and sometimes attacks on health workers by people fearful of the new coronavirus. Health officials said Tuesday that 20% of the more than 54,300 confirmed infections in Mexico involve health workers.

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