As the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus is struggling to be contained by Chinese health officials, the coverage among the press has caused a mass panic all around the world, including the Philippines, who have long been in silent conflict with China.
The 2019-nCoV has killed at least 170 and infected nearly 8000, spreading from its epicenter in Wuhan, China to several countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. In the Philippines, there has been one confirmed case of the new coronavirus as of today, January 30, and 23 other individuals who are under investigation for the virus are still in the hospital. Meanwhile, five have been discharged but are under strict monitoring, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The focus on Wuhan, the Central Chinese city where the virus is believed to have been first diagnosed, and rumors about if it began in a food market where they sell bats as food, led to fake and unconfirmed reports, including racism against Chinese people. This, and the sharing of xenophobic memes online, only fan the flames of fake news and more mass hysteria.
While the outbreak of any pandemic is alarming, the way people are treating Asians is equally worrying, perhaps far more deadly than a virus. It’s one thing to be on high alert and worrying about your health and safety, but it’s another thing to take to social media to crack racist jokes and make xenophobic comments about Asians, specifically on Chinese. It isn’t just people from the Western countries that are spewing xenophobic comments, though. It is also the Filipinos on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram who fill their feed with xenophobic memes and videos, downplaying it as jokes as if it isn’t ingrained racism that makes them share it.
Being ostracized for existing didn’t start because of the coronavirus. For years, decades, and centuries, Asians have already been degraded and ostracized for looking and acting differently. And while there have been plenty of things we disagree on, whether it be about dating, politics, and property, the bottom line is: there are people dying from this virus and nothing about it is a laughing matter. Yes, humor is always good, especially when things get tough, but wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all did our part to take that energy and shared the right information?
With so much happening in the world, this is not the time to be racist, but rather a better human being. The enemy here is not the Chinese, it’s the virus. Right now, we should be making consolidated efforts to curtail and curb the spread of misinformation and maligning, just as much as we work towards containing the virus.
That being said, now that we have a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines, it’s important to be reminded to stay calm, don’t panic, and be vigilant about spreading fake information.