OPINIONS Observer: Global health crisis can only be solved by unity, not stigmatization


Observer: Global health crisis can only be solved by unity, not stigmatization

By Xu Zheqi | People's Daily app

22:34, March 18, 2020


Social stigma and discrimination are repeating occurrences through humanity’s history of coping with pandemics. This time is no exception.

Pressure on the White House sharply mounted as the US faces grave challenges from both the COVID-19 epidemic and a volatile stock market. 

Scientists are still tracing the origin of the novel coronavirus, but some American politicians allege China is to blame. Their reaction was not to follow scientific opinions and map out contingency plans but to label the novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus.”

When the World Health Organization named the disease “COVID-19,” it explicitly explained that global experts intended to prevent the use of other names that may be inaccurate or stigmatizing.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against stigma-causing language even before the virus demonstrated its destructive power in the United States. 

The term “Chinese Virus” only contributes to confusion and divisiveness in an uncertain time, infectious disease experts warned. An editorial in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday urged Americans to stop using it. 

Another article, from Politico, also disapproved of the term. “The escalating drumbeat against China is worrying some public health experts, who say the attempts to blame Beijing for the coronavirus outbreak could harm efforts to combat the spreading contagion.” Using labels like “Chinese Virus” has done more to degrade trust than build it.

“A lot of these emotional and punishment policies will over time come back to bite us,” warned Paul Haenle, a former National Security Council official under the George W Bush and Obama administrations.

“Naming a disease after a place stigmatizes that place and that’s why there’s been an intentional move away from that,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, another former Obama administration official who helped lead the US response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. “Ultimately, diseases are about biology, not geography.”

“Let’s remember. Coronavirus is not an Asian virus. It’s a human virus,” said Twitter user Christopher Zullo.

Over two decades, people have suffered from SARS, the H1N1 influenza strain and the Ebola virus. The world demonstrated a growing willingness to cope with global threats together. This time the world is tested by a pandemic called “COVID-19.”

China has sacrificed a lot and harnessed experience and expertise in how to deal with the pandemic through quarantines, traffic restrictions and other stringent measures. China is increasingly offering knowledge, aid and medical supplies to other countries to contain the outbreak.

Diseases and other health crises are global challenges that necessitate the joint efforts of all human beings. Only in unity can humans survive this crisis.

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