US President Donald Trump has been criticised for repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”, with critics saying he is “fueling bigotry” and putting Asian-American communities at risk.
The president’s new labelling of the virus came as China and the US traded blame over the origins of the virus, ignoring World Health Organization (WHO) warnings not to link the pathogen, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of December, to a particular area or community to avoid discrimination or stigmatisation.
The virus, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has infected more than 173,000 worldwide and killed over 7,000, according to the WHO.
Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”
Previously, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has referred to coronavirus as the “Wuhan Virus”.
Trump’s most recent comments drew quick rebuke from Beijing, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking to reporters, urging the US “to correct its mistake and stop its groundless accusations against China”.
The official Xinhua news agency also responded to Trump’s words, writing in a commentary that using “racist and xenophobic names to cast blame for the outbreak on other countries can only reveal politicians’ irresponsibility and incompetence which will intensify virus fears”.
Meanwhile, Beijing, who has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak, has allowed disinformation surrounding the virus to spread in recent days, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian perpetuating one conspiracy theory in tweeting last week that “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan”.