Home Commentaries & Articles Pandemic, stigma and Exclusion: COVID-19 and the atmosphere of fear and exclusion

Pandemic, stigma and Exclusion: COVID-19 and the atmosphere of fear and exclusion

Covid-19-DB India

Covid-19-DB India

More than the outspread of the virus, something that has plagued common minds is the fear of it. This fear stems from not just the uncertainty of life, but of what normalcy is to be become in the times to come. It leads individuals to drown in the abyss of anxiety and stress and steers behaviour that would not otherwise ensue within normal circumstances.

The virus and its trajectory since the end of December, where health workers of Wuhan had informed the WHO about a pneumonia-like illness rapidly spreading in and around the city;today it is a pandemic that has shrouded the globe. The potential existential threat that the Coronavirus has brought upon the world has had its manifestations in various forms. Ever since its outbreak, the virus has been problematically referred to as the “Wuhan Coronavirus” or the “China virus”. Though history, East Asian communities have raised eyebrows with regard to health-related attacks on their culture, more sowith their cuisine.At the present moment, Asians have been unjustly at the receiving end of stares, slurs and exclusion from public spaces (that includes been asked to leave classrooms, workplaces etc.). From racialization of food habits and the Asian communities itself; the stigma around the virus has been rising, commensurate with the number of cases that are surfacing in the world.

The stigma, however, has now furthered its expanse and unfortunately the targets are the ones that are saving the populace from the virus itself. From healthcare workers, sanitary workers to the police, who are in the forefront, are facing discrimination ensuing from fear psychosis and the unabated circulation of misinformation about the virus. There is a compelling need to nip such prejudices in its bud and the government has been actively trying to allay the fears and misinformation that has been doing rounds. The entire atmosphere of such fear and exclusion and prejudice and stigmatization is deeply entrenched in the society and has had a resurface at a sensitive global pandemic.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Govt. of India as well as the World Health Organisation have been actively trying to dissipate the racialization and stigmatization of the virus. The MoHFW has already made certain Dos and Don’ts list for the perusal of the public on their website. It includes aspects on stopping the fear mongering by – from circulating information by first cross checking with reliable sources, to appreciating the frontline workers, sharing positive stories of recovery from the virus. It also urges the public to refrain from labelling/ victim blaming the patients of COVID-19 as well as most importantly dissuading fromcreating an atmosphere of panic andanxiety


References –

Wetsman, Nicole. https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/23/21078457/coronavirus-outbreak-china-wuhan-quarantine-who-sars-cdc-symptoms-risk

Balvaneda, Bryan; Roemer, Lizabeth; Anna, Ying.https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/responding-racism-during-covid-19-outbreak#w8bosdvtnokx

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Govt. of India official website https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/AddressingSocialStigmaAssociatedwithCOVID19.pdf