Medical staff are calling for calm after reports emerged of ambulance staff being discriminated against by members of the public fearful of Covid-19.
The Herald today heard from one St John paramedic this morning that panic - heightened with yesterday's announcement of community transmission an imminent four-week nationwide lockdown - had seen his flatmates try to evict him with only two days' notice.
The paramedic said community fear extended to neighbours recently asking him not to walk past their properties when he was in uniform and difficulties in getting served - only resolved by paywave through a glass pane - at a pizza takeaway restaurant.
In a statement St John ambulance director of operations Dan Ohs said he was unaware of such discrimination being widespread. "In fact, we have only received offers of support as our people step forward with the rest of health and emergency services to protect our communities," he said.
"We understand there may be fear in the community but we want to allay any concerns that the public may have about our health and safety."
Ohns said his staff, as with all professionals in the health system, followed strict guidelines when dealing with infectious diseases, including wearing personal protective equipment when dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases.
Sarah Stone, ambulance sector organiser at First Union, said she had not heard of wider complaints of discrimination from her members, but the case was alarming.
"Even one case is extremely disappointing. Our core message is to take a breath - we know it's because you feel a bit panicky - but take a moment to think it through: You can still be kind to people and not compromise your safety," she said.
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"If we can't look after our health workers, they're not going to be able to look after us."
Deborah Powell, the national secretary of the resident doctors association, said her members had not experienced any discrimination - but this may be due to their lack of uniforms and she was "concerned" about the case.
"Let's be honest, these guys are putting their lives on the line for us, and have to be out in the community and need to be respected," she said.