The Coronavirus is slowly transitioning from being an epidemic to a pandemic as the COVID-19 continues to spread outside China and Asia at large. Europe and the United States of America have already recorded multiple deaths as the virus creeps into African countries with no deaths reported yet. What is spreading in equal measure however is xenophobia or if you like racism.
People of Asian descent have been facing xenophobia in the worst ways in public spaces. From individuals alighting public transport on sighting an Asian, (in this case not necessarily Chinese) to depriving Asians of services in business settings, the Asian community has now taken to social media and other media platforms to protest against the hate that erupted after the virus was discovered in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei province. China has since been blamed for the spread of the virus with many accusations pointing at their food culture and traditions. However, due to the fear of catching the virus and the COVID-19 disease, some attacks have gone as far as claiming that the disease originates from the Asian people, therefore insinuating the virus already exists in their bodies.
In New York, a man is seen assaulting a Thai American woman wearing a mask, uttering the words “diseased bitch”, another man shouts on a Los Angeles subway saying the Chinese people are filthy and they are the catchment of all diseases. Blogs, social media accounts, and the mainstream media have played a big part in spreading misinformation on the novel coronavirus with all sorts of myths and superstitions surfacing about the virus.
Attacks on Asians is not only verbal but also physical, the same man reported to have called out a Thai woman saying she was part of a group of people intentionally spreading diseases is also said to have hit the woman at one point as they went back and forth on the subway. In France and Italy, the situation is no better as native Europeans from Asian descent continue to get attacks from fellow countrymen. Not only are non-Asians attacking individuals but even staying away from Chinese and Thai restaurants and centers. The hashtag #IAmNotAVirus is just one of the campaigns by Asians to educate on the COVID-19 and counter hate messages from ignorant individuals online.
Xenophobia In Africa
Even if only one case has been reported in Egypt with no deaths yet, CoronaVirus is just a threat but not a reality in African countries. This, however, has not spared individuals of Asian descent the hate messages and rejection. From mocking, jokes posted online to harsh treatment towards the Chinese and other Asians, the group of people is living on the edge. In Kenya, the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya has given Donkey abattoirs one month to shut down.
The slaughterhouses largely benefit the Chinese people with hide and meat are also owned and managed by the Chinese in Naivasha and other towns in Kenya. The reason for the closure has been attributed to a policy not well thought through and for fear that the meat is not safe for consumption. In his own words, Munya says “Punda sio mnyama wa kukuliwa kulingana na mila ya hapa” loosely translated as ‘the donkey is not to be consumed according to the culture here.’ The CS has given the one-month deadline for slaughterhouse owners to bring back culturally accepted animals for slaughter.
Criminal cases against the Chinese people who have largely occupied East African counties have also been on the rise with deportations being the quickest solutions to get rid of them. Recently, Chinese hoteliers were subjected to deportation after crossing Kenyan authorities in what was said to be an immigration issue. Xenophobia is gradually growing as the virus spreads outside China and Asia at large. Statistics show confirmed cases are at 80,150, 2,701 deaths and 27,633 recovered patients.