WHO: Coronavirus-related attacks are on the rise
Coronavirus-related attacks on health care workers and ethnic minority groups are on the rise around the globe, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of emergency programs said Wednesday.
In April, the agency tracked 35 incidents of attacks on health care workers or facilities in 11 countries, the WHO’s Mike Ryan told reporters. In other places, some assailants are targeting ethnic minorities or migrants because of a perceived threat they represent.
“We are increasingly concerned about a whole range of attacks,” Ryan said. “We’ve seen assaults on health workers themselves because they are health workers dealing with COVID and are perceived to be bringing a risk back to their communities. We’ve seen some assaults on COVID patients themselves, equally seen as a potential risk in communities.”
Around the world, the coronavirus has created what United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia,” especially against people of Asian descent. Reports of hate crimes have spiked in the United Kingdom, and public officials in Italy, Brazil and other nations have been accused of stoking anti-Asian sentiment.
Attacks have taken place in the United States, too. An Asian man was assaulted earlier this month on a New York City subway. Police in Pasadena, Calif., arrested a man who threw a drink on Asian Americans while yelling racial slurs.
The Anti-Defamation League has documented 90 attacks against Asian Americans since late January.
“COVID-19 is bringing out the best in us, but it’s also bringing out some of the worst. It’s bringing out reactionary groups, it’s bringing out — enhancing discrimination. And in some way, we’re seeing the facilitation of extreme responses in which people are feeling empowered to take out their frustrations on individuals who are purely trying to help and help communities,” Ryan said. “We also need to be sure that our words as leaders are condemning and not facilitating and enabling such behaviors.”
He did not single out any leaders for criticism.
In the United States, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stopped referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” The WHO refrains from labeling a virus by its geographic origin specifically to avoid any hint of stigma.