WHO urges ‘no stigma’ to be associated with coronavirus

A medical worker from Haikou of south China's Hainan Province measures body temperature of a passenger at an observation point in Xuwen County of Zhanjiang City, south China's Guangdong Province, Feb. 6, 2020. Qiongzhou Strait is a major passage into and out of Hainan Island. Since the start of the prevention and control of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus, Hainan and Guangdong have both moved the prevention and control threshold forward. Hainan has sent more than 160 joint anti-epidemic personnel from multiple departments to Zhanjiang of Guangdong Province, and set up four prevention and control points and an observation point there. In addition, Hainan has taken various measures to prevent and control the epidemic on ferries crossing the sea, such as pre-boarding temperature measuring, vessel disinfection and setting up isolation rooms.

Geneva,  Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program, urged that no stigma should be associated with the fast-spreading novel coronavirus.

“It is the responsibility of us all to ensure there is no stigma associated with the disease. They are unnecessary and unhelpful,” Xinhua news agency quoted Ryan as saying in a technical briefing here on Friday.

He added that profiling of individuals is “awfully and completely unacceptable,” and “it needs to stop”.

Ryan underlined that governments have the responsibility to educate their populations on the act of discrimination.

“This is a very important responsibility, and something we do need to engage with,” he reiterated.

Also speaking at the briefing, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, voiced similar concern.

Van Kerkhove said that the WHO has provided an interim name for the disease, calling it the “2019-novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease”.

“We thought it was very important that we provide an interim name, so no location was associated with the name,” she said. “We want to ensure that there was no stigma associated with this virus.”

The WHO said the final name of the disease will be provided by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), with the final decision being made by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

As of Saturday, the virus has killed 722 people in China, the epicentre of the outbreak.