By Zhong Sheng
“This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently send a strong appeal to the world.
Obviously, to respect the authoritative suggestions from the WHO and take measures recommended by the organization to avoid the impacts on regular international exchanges of personnel and practical cooperation in each field is what countries should do in the face of the current epidemic.
Whether countries can evaluate the severity of the epidemic in a just and rational manner, and inform the public about the low mortality rate and the fact that the cured cases have outnumbered the deaths to avoid secondary crisis has become a standard that measures wisdom, rationality and humanity. It’s foreseeable that it will be much easier for the world to get through the current difficulty as long as this standard is met by all countries.
However, some countries ignored the WHO recommendation that there was “no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” Their overreaction and measures have caused trouble for normal international travel. Such “exaggerated” measures have triggered panic and are indulging the emergence of hostility, vicious remarks and evildoings. This has no doubt signaled an alarm.
Countries are cautioned against actions that promote stigma or discrimination, in line with the principles of Article 3 of the International Health Regulation (IHR). However, some western media, with ulterior motives, called the virus a “yellow peril made in China”, publicly labeling the Chinese and even Asians. As a result, some people in western countries even committed violent crimes targeting Asians. Such ridiculous remarks and practices will do nothing to help the world combat the coronavirus, but only instigate racism and create panic.
Without doubt, the mainstream public opinion in the international society still stands with justice and righteousness. Any prejudice or discriminatory action against China is now condemned by the power of justice, as the practices and achievements made by the Chinese people to race against time and combat the epidemic are touching the world. Many foreigners have denounced the discriminatory remarks, saying such remarks are stupid and intolerable. With “ImNotVirus” hashtags, they posted messages on social media saying that the epidemic is not an excuse for exclusiveness and the crisis shall not overwhelm humanity.
Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong criticized such remarks, saying “that is foolish and illogical,” and the virus does not check people’s passports before it goes into their bodies. He stressed that the situation is a public health emergency and not an issue of race or nationality, and is a problem that all countries must work together to solve.
Leaders from Germany, Canada and the Philippines also made voices to stop discrimination. Michael Levitt, winner of Nobel prize in Chemistry and a scholar of virus research pointed out that western media broadcast what is happening in China from a selfishly focused perspective: how to limit the outbreak of illness outside the country’s borders. How narrow and sad that they never give China a voice or send words of encouragement and solidarity, he said.
Panic shall never worse the epidemic, and solidarity to protect lives shall never be obstructed. It tells from the human history of battles against viruses, especially today’s world where globalization is developing in a profound manner that the experiences in and lessons learned from the epidemics of influenza A/H1N1, MERS, Ebola and Zika all proved that the impacts of public health issues are beyond borders. “We are all in this together, and we can only stop it together,” said Tedros in a statement.
Addressing the challenges facing the world from the novel coronavirus outbreak, UN Secretary‑General António Guterres urged “a strong feeling of international solidarity.”
The spirit of solidarity and cooperation showcased by China in the battle against the epidemic has won wide respect and support from the international society. China has quickly spotted, isolated and sequenced the virus, and shared the information with the world, as well as taken a slew of measures that have much higher standards than the requirement in the IHR. These forceful measures are hailed as a good example for epidemic response.
The Chinese people, particularly in Wuhan and other affected cities in Hubei Province, are currently bearing the burden, said Michael Schumann, chairman of the German Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade. They are protecting the world from an even faster spread through their willingness to make sacrifices and their commitments, Schumann added, noting that the world will lose more if it cannot maintain humanity in front of such challenge.
The epidemic is ruthless, but humans aren’t. To have rationality control panic, to have sympathy, understanding and support overwhelm prejudices, narrowmindedness and anxiety, and to show solidarity to cope with the global public health challenge will lead to the final victory over the epidemic.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily of China to express its views on foreign policy.)