Coronavirus and racism

Source: chuttersnap (via Unsplash)

by Tehreem Sultan

“Bat eating creatures”, “Stay Away”, “Don’t even breathe around them”, “Go back to your infected country”, are these lines you’ve heard whispered about Asian people since the spread of the deadly ‘Chinese’ coronavirus? After the spread of this virus worldwide emerging from Wuhan, a city in Eastern China, it has affected more than 20,400 people in China while spreading to 25 countries, including the UK, France, Japan and Canada. It is fatal, and has killed 424 people thus inducing fear in every individual and also unintentionally leading to racism towards any Asian people. The world’s most populous country, with about 1.435 billion people is facing an immense challenge while posing a threat to the global public health of individuals. 

“As panicked and anxious you are, all the international and local students are too”

Here arises the issue of growing hatred, even a  repulsion, towards any Asian people or product as a result of the spread of this deadly disease. If you didn’t know already, you might be surprised  to learn that 7900 students, that is 25% of the student population at Cardiff University are international students, from over 130 countries. Now after the discovery of this outbreak on New Year’s Eve, all those students returning from China after Christmas couldn’t enter back into the UK, since British Airways suspended all direct flights to/from China, and those who have arrived are being quarantined. These safety measures are completely understandable, and reasonable of course to protect further transmission of this virus. However, something which is not acceptable in this era (or any era) is racism, discrimination, and the rising xenophobia in our society. 

In such pressing circumstances, playing the blame game is nowhere near the solution for preventing yourself from catching this virus. As panicked and anxious you are, all the international and local students are too. No one is alone in this, however, the people apparently being ‘blamed’ for this new illness have family, relatives, loved ones, living in China and the affected areas and are just as petrified about this situation. In 2020, respecting human rights and living in the decade of equality and inclusivity, no one is to be blamed for something they have not contributed towards. Making insensitive ‘famous, funny’ Tiktoks, sharing memes regarding Chinese foods and bat soups, trending #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan, and the Singaporean petition signed by 126,000 people to ban Chinese nationals, incidents of Chinese tourists being spat on in Venice, is a disgrace to humanity and a shame for us as a society, considering we live 7000 km away from the situation in China.

With a lockdown in China, with the final flight from Wuhan and the groups of people being quarantined at the NHS staff accommodation after arriving in the UK. With the World Health Organization (WHO) having declared an international public health emergency situation, safety measures should be our first priority. It’s already all over the news but once again, as a reminder to use tissues when sneezing or coughing, wash your hands regularly and just maintain your personal hygiene. With this virus, the people of China need moral and medical support to fight against this deadly outbreak rather than feeling isolated and targeted at this time. 

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