By Cloe Grampa
The Coronavirus, also known as the Covid-19 virus, is a type of virus similar to the flu. Symptoms include fever and cough that might escalate to severe pneumonia causing breathing difficulties. Those most at risk are the elderly, and those who are affected by long-term conditions that weaken the immune system. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China. There has been a lot of information and statistics regarding the mortality rate of the virus. However, it’s important to remember that the numbers could be misleading and therefore it is still early to establish the mortality rate.
One of the most dangerous symptoms that has become synonymous with the virus is the polarisation of the way in which people of an East Asian ethnicity are viewed. Due to the hysteria surrounding the virus and the worry that has been caused, the finger of blame has been wrongly pointed at people of this heritage. Racism and mistrust towards Asian people has peaked, and in many universities around the UK this student population have expressed their concern regarding their safety because of targeted attacks that include harassment and assault.
Many Chinese people are used to wearing face masks to protect themselves from pollution and sickness. However, according to the Guardian, few Chinese immigrants have said that wearing a face mask is turning them into targets of abuse and attacks. Most recently, Thai worker Pawat Silawattakun was assaulted in London by two teenagers who used the virus as an excuse to snatch his earphones and subsequently punch him.
Racism and hostility towards Asian people has been almost normalised by the amount of hysteria surrounding the virus, with some newspapers saying that spreading of the virus is a pandemic, a term that here has been misused. For instance, the virus is far from being a pandemic since it is not spreading in all the 195 countries on the World Health Organization’s list.
It is important to double check all the facts regarding the virus to avoid being swept away from the public hysteria that results in greater damage to East Asian communities. We are aware that a Sussex student has been tested for the Covid-19, with negative results, as such campus is safe, and no one should feel at risk.
Sussex is the proud home of over 2,000 Chinese students and in a recent email the Vice-Chancellor said: “It is vital at a time of worry and concern that we all are unstinting in our support for them in our words and our behaviours. Any prejudicial behaviours by any member of the University will be treated seriously and I would encourage you to challenge any such behaviour or, if you don’t feel able to, report it to someone who can. I’ve met with the Chinese Students & Scholars Association to reassure them of our absolute support and to listen to their experiences since the outbreak began.”
It is normal to be concerned and take precautions, but in situations like this, the best thing to do is to be there for each other and not get carried away by what the media tells us, since it’s still too early to understand the risk posed by the virus. Most importantly, it’s important to not use this outbreak to reinforce stigmas rooted in racism.
If you’re a student who has felt discriminated against in a racially focused incident, the Students Union has tools for you to use as part of their zero tolerance policy. Use their online to report a case or call their Racial Harassment forum on +447888999114 for support.
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