A 19-year-old girl was allegedly raped by an ambulance driver on her way to hospital after she tested positive for Covid-19.
She is said to have been attacked by the man known as V Noufal, 29, in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, India, on Saturday night.
The suspect was arrested on Sunday and police said he had not obtained the mandatory clearance certificate before joining as a driver.
The driver is believed to be a habitual offender with several criminal cases against him.
He picked up the victim as well as a 42-year-old woman at Adoor Government General -Hospital after they tested positive for coronavirus.
After dropping off the older woman, from Adoor, at a Covid centre in Aranmula, the driver drove the victim to Firstline Covid Treatment Centre in Pandalam.
The Bangalore Mirror reports the driver took her to a secluded area en route, removed his PPE and raped the girl at around 10:pm.
He reportedly apologised for the attack before threatening her not to tell anyone and dropping her off the hospital.
The 19-year-old told hospital staff when she arrived in Pandalam and the man was arrested on Sunday morning.
Health Minister K.K. Shailaja described the attack in Kerala as ‘shocking’ and ‘inhuman’.
A health department official told The Indian Express patients from a particular locality are usually picked up together and taken to hospital.
The official said: “The driver’s chamber is partitioned and no other staff or nurse accompanies the driver while ferrying patients to hospital.
“This is to limit the exposure of health workers to infected persons. In rare cases, if the patient is serious, we send a nurse. In this case, both patients were stable.”
The attack is the latest in a series of high profile sexual offences in India.
Last week, a three-year-old girl was raped and strangled in the third act of sexual violence in the Lakhimpur Kher district, of Uttar Pradesh, in 20 days.
Early last month, a 14-year-old deaf and mute girl at Uttrita Middle School in Khirundha was raped and murdered.
Hundreds of local villagers gathered and the police found that the ninth grader’s face had been crushed with bricks and stones.
The Women and Child Safety Organization was recently created by the state government following the spurt of crimes against women, especially children.
It is headed by a senior police officer to handle these cases and to try to ensure the safety of women and children.
India was classified the most dangerous place for women in 2018 because of its high levels of domestic and sexual violence.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of 550 global experts made the classification based on the 33,356 rapes and 89,097 assaults that year.