Thousands of people are dying from coronavirus. Stop treating it like a joke

Nine cases have now been confirmed in the UK. Elsewhere in the world people are really suffering.


The coronavirus epidemic is currently tearing its way through China and the world is reeling with fear and panic.

There are now 59,804 cases of coronavirus confirmed worldwide, a number that is increasing even as you read this article. 1367 people have died from the virus, with 1365 of the deceased being Chinese nationals. On Sunday 9th February, the coronavirus death toll officially surpassed that of the devastating SARS epidemic of 2003, in which there were 774 fatalities.

The virus that everyone thought would remain a disaster they can merely spectate from afar has now come too close for comfort. It has become a real threat to people across the world.

Despite how serious the outbreak is in some parts of the world, people across the world (where nine cases have been confirmed) have been treating it as a big joke, and I'm sick of it.

Wuhan, a once comforting and familiar city, now looks post-apocalyptic

I was born in Wuhan. I spent the first three years of my life there before moving to the UK. Most of my relatives, including my grandparents who are over 80 years old, still live in the city.

Wuhan is a beautiful place to live. The city, split between the two banks of the Yangtze River, is known for its bustling life, its incredibly delicious food, and its beautiful WestLake, which is famous for its cherry blossom landscapes in the spring.

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Photos of Wuhan now look post-apocalyptic to me. A once comforting and familiar sight, the city now feels unfamiliar and unsettling. Chinese New Year festivities have been abandoned, streets are barren and roads are empty.

People in Wuhan are terrified to leave the house, and are forced to stockpile food wherever they can. Public announcements in my grandparents’ estate reveal that there are confirmed cases of coronavirus in close proximity to where they live, the closest being in the building next door. When leaving the house, people have to wear surgical masks, goggles, and disposable gloves just to press the elevator buttons.

My aunt works as a doctor in accident and emergency. She describes working a ‘6 hours on, 6 hours off’ shift pattern, staying in a quarantined hotel next to the hospital where all the health professionals stay. She has not seen her family since the 24th of January, the day of Chinese New Year. She describes how the doctors and nurses risk their lives trying to attend to the masses of people queuing outside, and the sick ones who are inside. They avoid drinking and eating during their shift, because if they go to the toilet, they have to spend a very long time taking their protective clothing off and putting new ones on afterwards.

These people are selflessly putting their lives at risk to be on the front line to tackle this virus. Doctors have died from contracting the illness, children are being affected, with the youngest to be diagnosed being a 30 hour old newborn baby.

There has been horrific widespread racism aimed at ethnically Chinese people all over the world

Any event which captures the attention of a global audience, and instills fear in people worldwide, always undoubtedly leads to people pointing fingers and finding someone to blame. This has caused widespread racism towards East Asians, specifically ethnically Chinese people, all over the world.

A recent Guardian article reports that the UK's 390,000 strong Chinese community have experienced an overwhelmingly racist response to the global health crisis. The article describes verbal and physical abuse, people being egged, online hate, and being given dirty looks/stared at while out in public.

Jex Wang, a Chinese-Australian DJ and writer states: “The deeper prejudices exposed by the coronavirus are symptomatic of a long history of demonising Chinese people.

"Stereotypes of Asians as submissive and non-aggressive make them a target that people think they can make fun of and laugh at. I’ve seen posts saying Chinese people are dirty, disgusting, uneducated, we ‘deserved’ the virus because of our ‘weird’ food habits.”

Around the beginning of the reports of coronavirus outbreak, when it was revealed that the virus originated from bats, a video surfaced of a Chinese lady eating ‘bat soup’. This quickly went viral, and was reported as the reason people in Wuhan contracted the virus. This caused a massive uproar online, with many people saying that Chinese people deserve it, and that they’re ‘dirty’ and ‘uncivilised’. Any event which captures the attention of a global audience, and instills fear in people worldwide, always leads to people pointing fingers and finding someone to blame. This blame game has resulted in horrific widespread racism towards East Asians, specifically ethnically Chinese people, all over the world.

It has since been revealed that this bat soup video was filmed in 2016 by Wang Mengyun, the host of an online travel show, while she was in Palau which is a Pacific Island nation. Bat soup is not a delicacy in Wuhan AT ALL. Sampling the bat soup was just an addition to the over-done theme of adventurism and enthusiasm for unusual foods that many American chefs and travel hosts have shown in the past.

Memes have been circulating the web, poking fun at an epidemic which is affecting over 43,000 people

So many memes have been circulating around the web, poking fun at the epidemic which is affecting over 43,000 people worldwide. In the comments there is barely anyone calling them out… is everyone seriously on board with this kind of humour?

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The comments were disgusting, I had to stop scrolling because they were all the same. This post was later taken down.

There has even been coronavirus themed PARTIES: there has been a coronavirus themed club night in Sheffield, and a club night in Melbourne, Australia called ‘Corona Chinese New Year Special’, which served $8 Corona beers alongside ‘limited edition face masks’ and ‘happy ending cocktails’.

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Are you actually kidding me.

Chinese people experience racism, but you still get many people who think that they don’t

Freelance journalist and Manchester University masters student Sam Phan says the recent outbreak of coronavirus has "put a spotlight" on racism against east Asians. He says, “the Asian experience of racism has often been overlooked. There aren't as many voices out there calling it out.”

The fact is: Chinese people experience racism. Whether it is in real life or online, you will still get many people who think that they don’t. Anti-Chinese racism tends to be a little different: it’s either casual or ‘funny’ and we are expected to just take it easy and brush it off.

I am sick and tired of seeing cute puppy videos from China attract comments similar to ‘mmm lunch’ and ‘stop eating dog’ underneath each innocent viral video. Every time I want to tag a friend to show them, I dread looking at the comments because I will almost ALWAYS see comments like these.

For those who possess such a close-minded mentality – time to get your heads out of the ancient 'us and them' mindset, get yourself educated and start treating everyone how you would wish to be treated: with compassion and respect. In times like this we need each other more than ever, and no one should feel ashamed or alone.