ALGIERS - Algeria is planning a law to protect health workers after an increase in "physical and verbal attacks" since the country's coronavirus outbreak began, as it registered another record number of daily cases.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called for new legislation after an increase in recent weeks of "physical and verbal attacks on medics, paramedics and administrative staff," according to a statement published on the prime minister's website.
The incidents have also in some cases involved "acts of damage and destruction of public assets and medical equipment," the statement added.
Algeria on Thursday registered 585 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 21,355, including 1,052 deaths, said Djamel Fourar, spokesperson for the scientific committee monitoring the pandemic, during a daily press conference.
The number beat several single-day records this week.
Algeria had been relaxing anti-coronavirus measures since early June, but faced with a resurgence of infections, the government decided Thursday to extend a partial lockdown in some provinces, including the capital Algiers.
Authorities said the increase was due to the population "relaxing" and "not respecting" preventive measures.
Algeria's main virus hotspots are the provinces of Setif, Algiers and nearby Blida, which was also the epicentre early in the country's outbreak.
Algeria's healthcare workers have come under increasing pressure as cases rise.
On Monday, the director of a hospital in Bouira, around 125 kilometres (78 miles) southeast of the capital, jumped out of a window to escape the angry family of a patient suspected of having died from the COVID-19 disease, said Mohamed Laib, health director in the city.
The family members of the deceased had burst into Djamel Boutmer's office after the hospital refused to release the patient's body, Laib added.
Boutmer fled "the attack by jumping from the window of his first-floor office, lightly injuring his foot".
The government statement said the new law would aim to "protect medical workers from all attacks... inside hospitals and other health structures and establishments," without elaborating on measures that could be taken.
On July 10, the president announced support measures for healthcare workers on the front line in the fight against the virus.
In the statement, the government also slammed "the manipulation and dissemination of images on social networks and in the media" that it said harmed the medical profession, after videos circulated denouncing conditions in some hospitals.
It said such "unacceptable acts" sought to discredit public health services and were punishable by law.