Viruses have been traditionally named after places they came from.
Ebola was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zika was named after a forest in Uganda.
Diseases also traditionally get their names from their places of origin.
The Lyme disease got its name from a town in Connecticut.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS was named after the region of the world it came from.
MERS was caused by a virus that belongs to the same of family as the novel coronaviruses that was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization named the new coronavirus as COVID-19.
In the U.S., the New York Times reported on January 21, 2020 about what it called the first case in that country of the “Wuhan coronavirus”.
On Tuesday (March 10), media outlets reported that major Republican politicians are facing criticism for calling COVID-19 as “Chinese coronavirus”.
The Georgia Straight sought anti-racism activist Imtiaz Popat for his views about the use of terms like ‘Chinese coronavirus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’.
Popat is the founder of the Coalition Against Bigotry–Pacific. The group will hold an anti-racism event at Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday (March 14), starting at 2 p.m.
Are ‘Chinese coronavirus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’ racist terms?
There’s a distinction, according to Popat.
“Calling it Chinese virus is racist,” Popat said in a phone interview Wednesday (March 11).
But Popat doesn’t consider ‘Wuhan virus’ as a racist utterance.
“Because it's actually that's where it's from,” Popat said.
Popat explained that calling the virus as Chinese is equivalent to associating all Chinese to the virus.
According to Popat, he understands that “there is conventional practice for naming the virus from where it’s from, and I think…it's a consideration”.
“I think Wuhan virus is accurate,” Popat said.
However, calling the virus as Chinese virus is “not fair”.
So it’s okay to call a virus after a place but not after a whole people?
“Exactly,” Popat said.