Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday condemned harassment of doctors and nurses and also expressed “pain” at people targeting professionals handling emergency services during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“In this hour of crisis, those in white coats are a form of God. Today they are saving lives, putting their own lives in danger,” the Prime Minister said, responding to a doctor who said she felt upset at health workers being ostracized.

He appealed to the people to take an initiative to make those who ill-treat healthcare professionals understand that they are wrong.

PM Modi further said he has directed the Home Ministry and state police chiefs to take strict action against those not supporting or not co-operating with doctors, nurses and other professionals who are engaged in emergency services.

“The doctors, rescue workers who wen to Wuhan, Air India and other staff that have helped in ops to get back Indians from various parts of the world… these are our true heroes. We must help them. When I heard reports of them being harassed, I have taken it very seriously. It is a very grave issue for me. I have already told all state DGPs to take the most strict action against those harassing them,” PM Modi said.

“These days, people in hospitals are working for around 18 hours per day, people in the healthcare sector are not getting more than 2-3 hours of sleep. Civil society people are working day in, day out to help the poor and needy,” the PM added and urged people to salute such people who are serving the society in such a critical hour.

The PM’s advise comes in the wake of reports of landlords threatening to evict doctors and nurses from their houses and common people ostracizing them.

The Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi had pleaded Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday to prevent the eviction of healthcare professionals by landlords in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors across the country have been “stranded on the roads with all their luggage”, said the RDA.

The medical professionals, the letter said, face constant harassment as they are in touch with both suspected and confirmed Coronavirus patients. Some societies have also stopped them from entering, the doctors said.

Apart from the frontline health workers, national carrier Air India and the country’s largest domestic carrier IndiGo have also said that their crew has faced instances of being ostracized from their communities due to their travel history in wake of COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, total number of cases of novel Coronavirus in India has reached 603, with 546 active cases. At least 12 people have reportedly died of the infection.