A number of countries have seen overt instances of racist stereotypes – such instances are something we all need to avoid
Sunday 2 February 2020
I’ve bought surgical masks. I’ll admit it. I’ve been wearing one a day for a while. Before there were reports of coronavirus cases in the UK, I was already cautious.
Truth is, in the west, we have had little to worry about in terms of recent health crises, but the widespread panic among the Chinese diaspora right now is caused by a dark shadow in Chinese collective memory: that of the 2003 Sars outbreak.
There is plenty of information around about why Sars happened; how it spread so rapidly and why it was as lethal as it was. Certainly, the Chinese government covering up the outbreak for four months and healthcare workers not being properly informed of the dangers played a part.
Seventeen years on, it appears that lessons have not been taken on board as they should have. Early reports of the coronavirus in Wuhan first appeared in December 2019 and yet, on 18 January 2020, Wuhan officials still held a potluck banquet involving 40,000 families in a world record attempt.
During this time, anyone posting about the virus on social media was censored and a number of people have been pulled in for police questioning for spreading false “rumours”. Beijing may have reacted faster to this outbreak, but it still has to do better.