WHO warns against politicization of COVID-19
China Daily

The emblem of World Health Organization. (Photo: Agencies)

The World Health Organization on Monday warned against the stigmatization and politicization of COVID-19, a week after US President Donald Trump repeatedly used controversial terms in his speeches.

In his tweets and speeches in the past weeks, Trump has used "China plague", "kung flu" and "China virus" to describe COVID-19.

"By the way, it's a disease, without question, has more names than any disease in history," Trump said in a rally a week ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "I can name 'kung flu'. I can name 19 different versions of them."

The racial stigmatization has drawn wide condemnation in the United States.

"We encourage all people at all levels and in all countries to use language that is appropriate, respectful and that is not associated with any connotations that are negative," Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, told a virtual news conference on Monday in response to a question by China Daily.

"It is unfortunate if our global discourse is reduced to base language. That never helps."

In his reply to another question, Ryan noted that when people choose national unity against a common enemy, they sometimes don't get to choose who leads them in that fight.

"We cannot continue to allow the fight against this virus to become and to be sustained as an ideological fight. You can't beat virus with ideologies. Simply cannot," he said.

The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening remarks that all over the world people have seen heartwarming acts of resilience, inventiveness, solidarity and kindness in the battle against COVID-19.

"But we have also seen concerning signs of stigma, misinformation and the politicization of the pandemic," he said.

Tedros emphasized that from the start, the WHO has talked about "quarantine COVID politics".

"We have to fight this virus in unison," he said, adding that otherwise the virus will exploit the differences.

He said national unity and global solidarity are essential to implementing a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission, save lives and minimize the social and economic impact of the virus.

Tuesday will mark six months since the WHO received the first reports of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in China. So far, WHO has recorded 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths.

Tedros said the WHO will send a team to China next week to prepare for the study of the zoonotic source of the virus.