An Italian mayor’s anti-racism campaign encouraged people to interact with Chinese people less than a month before the country began to slip into a massive quarantine.
Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, announced the campaign in a Feb. 1 tweet.
The mayor urged people not to buy into fear and xenophobia before urging citizens to “hug a Chinese.”
#coronavirus: seguiamo le indicazioni delle autorità sanitarie e usiamo cautela, ma nessun terrorismo psicologico e soprattutto basta con i soliti sciacalli che non vedevano l’ora di usare questa scusa per odiare e insultare. Uniti in questa battaglia comune! #AbbracciaUnCinese pic.twitter.com/pUdqEl0piW
— Dario Nardella (@DarioNardella) February 1, 2020
It’s worth noting that Chinese is not a race but a nationality — China itself, while majority Han, also has Uyghurs, Koreans and a myriad of other ethnic minorities.
The movement quickly took off, and was the subject of several jokes and viral videos as Italians latched onto the trend.
While the mayor’s hashtag cannot be blamed for the outbreak in Italy, now considered the worst in Europe, it appears to have downplayed the severity of the novel coronavirus.
Less than three weeks after the mayor’s social-justice-steeped campaign, Italian towns were being locked down.
Now, the entire peninsula is under quarantine.
Although early reports pointed the finger at a Pakistani immigrant who was infected with SARS-CoV-2 and refused to quarantine as patient zero, recent revelations have shown that to be false.
While the Italian mayor’s campaign seems disastrously ignorant, downplaying the virus’ deadly characteristics and pandemic-level spread is something that those on both the right and left are guilty of.
Rush Limbaugh likened the novel coronavirus to the common cold, despite the fact that it has proven to be more than 10 times as deadly as influenza in many cases.
Research into the coronavirus’ nature and effects on the human body is still ongoing, but it’s clear that this is not something to brush aside.
Countries like China, Iran and South Korea have battled COVID-19 with extreme lockdown measures and large-scale testing for the virus, which has helped determine where the virus entered and where it was growing.
President Donald Trump only recently instituted a ban on travel from Europe, but has yet to facilitate broad testing unless individuals suspected to have the virus meet strict requirements.
It’s clear that hugging a Chinese person will not infect you with coronavirus, but ignorance of the pathogen is something that can be deadly.
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