MEXICO CITY — 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.