It was no secret that towards the end of 2019, China was battling what could have potentially eradicated half of its population in the space of 6 months. In the early days of 2020, it seemed that the virus could be contained within Chinese borders, to the relief of foreign states of course. This changed on 6th February 2020, when the first foreign citizen, a 60-year old American male, died in Jinyintian Hospital, Wuhan, the state identified as the outbreak origin of the deadly virus. In response to the crisis, the closing of US and Australian borders to Chinese arrivals represented one of the first signs of active diplomatic resistance to contain the virus. The UK, France, USA and other nations continue to return their citizens by drafting flights from China. As of the 12th February 2020, there has been a total of 45,171 individuals confirmed infections, 2068 in the last 24-hours. There have been 1115 fatalities according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, 97 of which are new. This is all subject to change in the coming hours or even seconds seeing as the number of infected have surpassed that of the SARS crisis in 2003.
Of those infected 441 cases were from outside China in 24 different countries, with one foreign death. In the UK, 8 cases have been confirmed, with one being a university student at York University and another, their mother. A 46-year old father and businessman was also tested positive, he and his family are now in Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital along with the individual who was confirmed to be infected in London. Immediate isolation has been used in the aspiration to reduce the regional and intercontinental transferal of the disease by super-spreaders.
In a rise of viral contractions there has also been a spike in speculation behind what Coronavirus is and how it has been able to spread with such ease. Alongside these curiosities however, it’s possible to recognise mutually elevated levels of passive racism and xenophobia associated with the virus. Is this an act of fear or just an excuse to engage in senseless prejudice? In order to tackle the social as well as biological impacts of the coronavirus outbreak we first need to understand what Coronavirus actually is and what it means for the functioning of our modern societies.
Coronavirus, which has now been named Covid-19, circulates primarily amongst animals but have managed to infiltrate human cells through consumption of infected animals. The novel virus detected in China is genetically close to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), said to have spread from civet-cats and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), spread from camels. Symptoms of the Covid-19 include fever, difficulty breathing, pain in muscles/joints and fatigue. Those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible e.g. if you are elderly, pregnant or have pre-disposed genes. It would be strongly recommended to wash or sanitise your hands and frequently used objects regularly, cough/sneeze on tissue having minimal contact with your surroundings as the virus can stay in air and fluids.
The Coronavirus has arrived at a time where Brexit has just been delivered, Trump has publicised his Middle Eastern plan with Israel and the 5G is being prepared for release. It becomes evident that such political events can be overshadowed by the talk of pandemic. The World Health Organisation stated that the Coronavirus was a global emergency. This has been followed by accusations made against China on concealing of the truth on how much the country is actually suffering from the virus. Then again, when China sneezes, the world coughs; economies who benefit greatly from Chinese trade and enterprises will be largely affected by the outbreak demonstrated when Chinese stocks fell by 9% on Monday 3rd February 2020 , causing a stagnation on global market growth.
Nevertheless, hope can be seen in the fact that the WHO suggests the virus can be contained, provided that countries “put in place strong measures to detect disease by isolation, trace contacts and social distancing measures.” However, to what extent can “social distancing” be seen as a medical precaution rather than permission to discriminate and ridicule members of the Asian community?
In the UK, cities with a large and thriving Chinese population have reported increased filing of reports on racism. One case in London found that a British citizen encouraged the “boycotting” of Chinese restaurants and markets. Educational visits to European countries such as Italy have been cancelled and academies in Europe are telling Chinese students to self-quarantine even when they have not recently visited their home country of China. There have also been cases where cafés have positioned signposts that prohibit the entrance of Chinese people. Appreciation of culture and identity has been depressed in the favour of others’ insecurities and preferences, something that many have died to abolish. What does this say about the stance our states have on the basis of human rights?
Unfortunately, it seems that figures who should be the role-models of our times are not aiding in the global fight against Coronavirus by publically humiliating members of the Chinese race over media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, whether it be football players or reality TV stars this does not help the situation. Many have been applauded for the advocating of donations and funding to the nations who need it the most like China and Hong Kong amid the protests. China is also commended for their execution in building a hospital for the infected within only 6 days. The main concern for the WHO at the moment is how we are to deal with the coronavirus if it were to spread in developing countries with poor healthcare systems. Not only would this disrupt the economical stability of these countries but it would leave regulatory standards needing continual alteration to accommodate for the current crisis. Despite this, further research and the development of vaccines continue to be carried out by experts and volunteers in the medical field.
If we are to effectively combat the challenge of the novel Coronavirus or Covid-19, then we need to set aside the differences and embrace the rich culture and talents of our society, so we can maintain and thrive in global health. If we are to attach diseases like that of Covid-19 to ethnicities and embed stigmatisation within our establishments, the only outcome would be chaos. Collective cooperation and the sharing of information for the safety of our well-being, rather than building social barriers, would move our nations closer to a global flourishing in welfare. If not, we all might as well go into quarantine.
If you have any general concerns about what has been discussed, please contact your local GP.
For advice on travel please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth website.
©Zariel Konadu, 2020