Panic, fear and scepticism surrounding the Coronavirus has spread to the extent that it received a laugh at the The Baftas after presenters joked that they could use their trophies as masks. Every time we check the news we are bombarded with the absolute hysteria of the media spiralling at the hand of the Coronavirus. So how deeply should we be concerned and is the virus causing further issues?
Over the winter break, I received a frantic text from a friend who was worried about catching the Coronavirus. She read a misinformed article saying the virus had spread to Dundee. Now back at University, anyone suffering from a simple cough has been associated with the virus so much so that it seems to have overtaken concern for the dreaded Freshers Flu. The public seem to be adopting the offensive view that having a common cold will automatically lead to contracting a serious illness which has killed hundreds of people.
The World Health Organisation declared a global health emergency last Thursday, as they acknowledged the risks the virus poses not only to China but to countries beyond. They spoke of the need for a more organised international response to the outbreak, but how much does anyone really know? The Hubei Province in China is reportedly the epicentre of the outbreak, and in China the confirmed number of those effected has risen to over 17,000 as of Sunday evening. The symptoms of this flu-like virus include headaches, coughing, sore throats, high fevers and respiratory issues. These seem like the typical symptoms of an extreme case of the common cold, but this virus has killed over 360 in mainland China, overtaking the 2003 death toll of the SARS outbreak. In Wuhan, Hubei, a speciality hospital is being built and equipped with medical gear to help treat patients who are infected.
However, other countries’ reactions to the Coronavirus seem lacking as over eighteen cases have been confirmed in countries including Thailand, Singapore, France and the US, as China faces mounting isolation from the rest of the world. A number of international airlines have suspended some or all flights to China. The Hubei province itself is becoming a ghost town as it remains under a virtual quarantine as public transport is stopped and roads are sealed off. The World Health Organisation is concerned that the epidemic will spread to low income countries that will be unable to contain its spread. However, 99% of deaths recorded have been within China, and the WHO are confident that despite cases abroad the country will be able to contain the virus. The Who have called for called for support in controlling and preparing for any cases that may spread and emphasised that trade with China although limited could and should continue.
However, along with the spread of the virus, the spread of prejudice in the media has escalated. Last weekend as the first case was confirmed in the UK, an owner of a Chinese restaurant in London’s China town received “immediate cancellations”. Reports of citizens experiencing hostility and as well as racism in Britain follow in the wake of the virus. The BBC spoke to a paediatric nurse, Lucy Li whose daughter came home from school reporting that other children were told to stay away for her as well as an increase of unwanted attention when simply walking down the street. The Coronavirus in the UK is inducing an increase in racial prejudice against all Asian people living in Britain, yet it seems obvious the world shouldn’t be racializing a global health crisis.
As the outbreak continues, it must be noted that this virus is causing suffering both in those infected and those around the world that have faced an increase of racial abuse. We should take note that people are at the heart of this situation–people who are suffering. No one should be increasing the suffering by inflicting abuse based on stereotypes. As Refreshers comes to a close we should remain informed on the Coronavirus, but we should also be reminded to be that bit kinder.