US congressman's 'Wuhan virus' remark stirs 'racism' debate

Some on social media slam Paul Gosar for highlighting where new coronavirus originated from while others defend him.

    Paul Gosar, a US congressman, placed himself in self-quarantine over the new coronavirus fears [Mandel Ngan/AFP]
    Paul Gosar, a US congressman, placed himself in self-quarantine over the new coronavirus fears [Mandel Ngan/AFP]

    A US congressman's announcement of his self-quarantine has stirred a debate on social media after he called the new coronavirus as "the Wuhan virus", referring to the Chinese city where the virus is believed to have originated.

    Some Twitter users on Monday called Paul Gosar's terminology "racist" and "gross" while others defended him, saying he was simply stating a fact.

    Eugene Gu, MD, wrote to Gosar, saying: "Most people call it the coronavirus. Some call it COVID-19. But only the most ignorant and racist among us would call it the Wuhan virus."

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    "This is irresponsible as well as designated to prompt prejudice," another Twitter user, Jess Phoenix, told Gosar.

    Meanwhile, some tried to justify Gosar's remark.

    "Eh.... it originated there. No one disputes that. These epidemic type of diseases are often referred to by where they originated (eg., Ebola). Is he doing it on purpose to emphasize it began externally? Yeah, but that isn't racist, per se," said AJ Delgado.

    Others listed the diseases that have been named after places, including Zika, Ebola, German measles and Spanish flu.

    Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) - which named the disease caused by the virus COVID-19 - said in a tweet: "DON'T - attach locations or ethnicity to the disease".

    "This is not a 'Wuhan Virus', 'Chinese Virus' or 'Asian Virus'," the agency said.

    In February, the WHO said that "CO" stands for "corona", "VI" for "virus" and "D" for "disease", while "19" was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31. 

    It said the name had been chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international naming recommendations aimed at preventing stigmatisation.

    The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

    Gosar, a Republican member of Congress, said he is isolating himself after determining he had contact at the Conservative Political Action Conference  with a man who had tested positive for coronavirus.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News