A senior Chinese health official recently warned people on social media not to touch foreigners as the country reported its first case of monkey pox.
In a Weibo post on Saturday, Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, announced that China is now a case of monkey pox that “slipped through the net” despite tight COVID-19 limits.
“It is necessary and important to strengthen the monitoring and prevention of monkeypox,” Wu wrote.
He also listed five recommendations in the post, the first of which caused controversy online.
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“To avoid possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that 1) you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners,” he said. wrote.
Chinese health authorities have reportedly discovered monkeypox, an infection that causes flu-like symptoms, severe skin rashes and other symptoms, from an “international arrival” under COVID-19 quarantine in Chongqing, a municipality in southwestern China.
Many Weibo users have reportedly shared Wu’s post, with some supporting his advice and expressing relief because they don’t know many non-Chinese nationals. However, some users criticized Wu’s message, even comparing it to what Asians experienced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“This is kind of like when the pandemic started when some people abroad avoided Chinese people who saw them out of fear,” commented one user. “I don’t believe these two things have a scientific basis, they are too broad and will the public panic.”
“When the pandemic first started, some of our foreign friends got up and used our own platforms to tell everyone, ‘Chinese people are not the virus,'” wrote another user. “After that, when the domestic outbreak was under control and our foreign friends started to be discriminated against, many Chinese with their own platforms went completely silent.”
Other Weibo users questioned Wu’s post, asking why old foreigners in China are supposedly more dangerous than locals.
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On Sunday, the comment section of Wu’s post, which circulated widely on Weibo this weekend, was shut down.
The senior health officer clarified his post on Monday after the backlash, people are advising people to avoid “intimate direct skin-to-skin contact” with foreigners or people who have traveled from areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox.
Some Chinese experts believe that unlike COVID-19, that led to sudden lockdowns across the country — including the months-long lockdown in Shanghai that began the end of March – Monkeypox will not lead to nationwide lockdowns.
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Speaking with the Global timesLu Hongzhou, chief of Shenzhen’s Third People’s Hospital, said the disease poses “little threat to Chinese communities.” However, Lu also mentioned strict customs quarantine inspections to prevent imported cases into China.
From September 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 23,893 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States, with California having the highest number on record with 4,656 infections, followed by New York with 3,755 infections.
Featured image via Peking University