By Harrison Arubu
United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres says there are growing acts of racial discrimination over COVID-19 outbreak, describing the attitude as shameful.
“It is shameful to see increasing acts of racial discrimination and prejudice as we fight the #COVID19 pandemic, a crisis that affects us all.
“We must always #fightracism and prejudice, and promote respect, compassion and equality,” he said in a Twitter post on Friday evening.
It is shameful to see increasing acts of racial discrimination and prejudice as we fight the #COVID19 pandemic – a crisis that affects us all.
We must always #fightracism & prejudice, and promote respect, compassion & equality.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 21, 2020
Although Guterres did not mention names, U.S. President Donald Trump stirred controversy on Monday when he described the COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”.
The respiratory disease, which has infected no fewer than 234,000 persons and killed 9,840 others worldwide, broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, 2019.
“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus,” the president tweeted.
The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
The term drew criticisms from Asian-Americans, health experts and opposition politicians, who denounced it as stigmatisation of certain groups.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Geng Shuang, reacted angrily to the tweet, saying the phrase amounted to “stigmatisation of China”.
“We urge the U.S. to correct its mistake and stop its groundless accusations against China,” the BBC quoted Shuang as saying.
China’s official news agency, Xinhua, also reacted, saying Trump’s language was “racist and xenophobic”, according to the British news outlet.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urged caution in the use of language on the pandemic, warning against linking the virus to a particular area or group, due to the risk of stigmatisation.
Also reacting, the Mayor of New York City, Mr Bill de Blasio said the term was capable of fueling more bigotry against Asian-Americans.
However, Trump defended his use of the phrase at a news conference by the coronavirus presidential task force in Washington on Wednesday.
“It’s not racist at all, no. It comes from China. I want to be accurate,” he said, adding that he was not concerned about Chinese-Americans’ fear about racism, either.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that there are indications of discrimination against Asians in the streets of New York on account of the virus.
On March 6, a video emerged on social media of what appears to be a racially-motivated crime sparked by fear of the coronavirus in a subway train.
In the short video, a man is seen apparently telling a fellow male passenger of Asian origin to move away, before spraying him Febreze air freshener.
The New York Police Department said it had started investigating the case as a possible coronavirus hate crime.
Four days later in Manhattan, a woman was attacked by another “because she was Asian and was not wearing a face mask” media reports quoted police sources as saying saying.
Coronavirus is NO excuse for racism.
This assault is disgusting & I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation to make sure the assailant is held accountable.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 11, 2020
This elicited outrage from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who described the assault as disgusting and stressed that “coronavirus is no excuse for racism”.(NAN)