Recently, the world has been hit by the news of a new Coronavirus disease that originated from Wuhan, China in December 2019. The infection has been spread from China to other parts of the world as there are reported cases whereby individuals who visited Mainland China, specifically the city of Wuhan, have contracted the disease. Furthermore, a couple of cases of local transmission have happened likewise. On 11 February 2020, the World Health Organization announced that “COVID-19” will be the official name of the disease. World Health Organization Chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the “CO” stands for “corona”, “VI” for “virus” and “D” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on 31 December. Tedros further added that the name had been chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international recommendations for naming aimed at preventing stigmatisation.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in China, it has sparked many xenophobic incidents around the world. The virus has heightened racism against the Asian community and travel restrictions have been imposed to China and Hong Kong. There are widespread of Anti-China sentiments surfacing in the West ever since the outbreak of the virus. That being said, the virus doesn’t have any correlations with one’s race or nationality. This phenomenon functioned as a solid support to the entrenched stigma that has already existed surrounding the Chinese. It can be seen that it is all intentional in order to put the blame on Chinese people and make them look worse than they actually are, and it affects other Asia countries as a whole.
It is unfair for the global citizens to constantly drag Mainland Chinese down as COVID-19 could have started in any part of the world, be that in the Western World, Latin America, Eurasia, Middle East or the Pacific Islands. But, they won’t receive the same backlash from everyone. Instead of lapsing into parochial and racial lenses, racial chauvinists should use their energy and platforms to spread messages of hope.
Since there are no vaccines or specific antiviral treatments yet, the news has given advice to the people to practice good personal hygiene and be more alert and cautious while travelling abroad and to crowded areas and places. When the news of COVID-19 outbreak hit outside of China, a lot of dispensaries and pharmacies ran out of surgical face masks and hand sanitizers as people were queuing up to protect themselves from the infection. The World Health Organization advises everyone to clean their hands with soap & water or alcohol-based hand rub and to cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. Most importantly, avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth and face with dirty hands. However, it is important to note that washing your hand too frequently can have other consequences. Over-washing can cause hands to dry out, crack and bleed, which allows germs to enter the body. In addition, it is important to ensure any hand sanitizer you use contains 60 percent alcohol. Studies have shown that sanitizers with lower concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not as effective at killing germs as those with 60 to 95 percent alcohol. The chances of getting the COVID-19 disease is less if you have a strong immune system. So, make sure to sanitize yourself and wear surgical face masks.
There are a lot of media coverage regarding the COVID-19 situation. However, I feel that they exaggerate with their reporting, causing mass hysteria and chaos amongst the people about the negative effects of the epidemic. Moreover, there are many false news, speculations and hoaxes about the cause of the disease about its spread on social media. With the lack of information about the pandemic, damage control and affirmative actions should be taken by the government and those who are responsible and involved, and that includes all of us. The number of deaths reported by the Chinese government is questionable since there may be more deaths from the disease in China as the Chinese government always tend to manipulate data and deny certain reports. With the news of COVID-19, people should be made aware more of what news that are valid and can be trusted and news report that they should not be concerned about.
The COVID-19 quarantine is the largest quarantine in human history, and it is a precautionary measure to prevent the virus from spreading further by the Chinese government. There are now reports and news confirming that a lot of people fled China to avoid themselves from being in quarantine which can be considered to be inhumane and irresponsible. Also, the quarantine situation in China has been affecting a lot of businesses and companies including public transportation (e.g. buses, trains, ferries, and the airport). A lot of countries have imposed travel bans and restrictions on China and even stopped direct and indirect flights to and from China. Some of the unexpected consequences can be found within the Chinese businesses outside of China along with international conglomerates and businesses in China such as Starbucks, Volkswagen and Renault.
Only time will tell us when the COVID-19 outbreak will die down. As per the WHO, we might have to be prepared for a wider transmission of the disease. In the meantime, blame games between the races should be stopped and everyone needs to be more considerate towards those that are affected and those that are in the process of recovery. To prevent further spread of the disease, hand washing and avoiding other people if you are feeling unwell are important. If you find yourself showing any signs or symptoms, isolate yourself by staying at home, not going to work, do not use any public transport and try not to have visitors.
Written by Fathimath Eemaau Mohamed
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the position of UNM IGNITE.