Coronavirus hysteria

The recent information overload from the media about the coronavirus, originating from China has instilled people with fear, worldwide.

Fear brings out the worst in people and the worst among us play upon our fears, inciting xenophobia and violence. Quarantining passengers with elevated temperatures on flights out of China may be prudent but acting out against anyone who even looks asian verges on hysteria. People are being barred from restaurants, bars, shops, and malls. In the US women and even children have been assaulted. 

Here in Canada, we like to think we are better than that. We pride ourselves on being a multicultural society. We have publicly acknowledged our regret for the shameful way we treated our First Nations, the Chinese, the Japanese, and others in the past through ignorance, fear, and greed. As our own Prime Minister has said, “There is no place in our country for discrimination driven by fear or disinformation.”

Sadly, in Penticton last Sunday night, there was an incident of vandalism directed at Chinese people who are part of our community, people who have lived and worked here peacefully for many years; people who are just as worried about this virus as you and I. A man shouting expletives and racist slurs picked up rocks and deliberately hurled them at the windows of a place of worship owned by a Chinese religious group.

This kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated in our country. It is our duty as proud Canadians to speak out loudly against such fear induced hatred whenever and wherever we see it or hear it voiced. We must never allow the sins of the past to be repeated.

What many Canadians don’t realize is that we encounter deadly coronaviruses all the time without becoming paranoid, anxious, or fearful. According to our government, in Canada every year due to the flu, which also is a coronavirus, around 12,200 Canadians are hospitalized and 3,500 people die.

Do we attack people with the flu and call them diseased? No, of course we don’t. We are sympathetic and wish them well. If we know who gave us the flu, do we go out and attack them? No, not even if someone gave a person we love the flu and that loved one died. 

No one has yet died in Canada from this coronavirus outbreak. So, why are we overreacting to the extent where, instead of offering support for victims, we malign and attack an entire group of totally blameless Canadians?

We should instead be supporting anyone who falls ill from this disease, regardless of race, creed, or color.

David Hume, Penticton

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