A top Chinese health expert has told the public to be on high alert for close contact with foreigners in general in light of the country’s first-ever monkeypox case.
Wu Zunyou , chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote his advice on Weibo on September 17. It came one day after China’s Chongqing city reported an infection of the viral disease coming from abroad.
Addressing public concern about the infectious virus, Wu’s recommendation was: “Do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners.”
Then his second piece of advice reads, “Don’t have skin-to-skin contact with people who have returned from abroad [in the past three weeks].”
His other suggestions are telling people to use disposable toilet seat covers in public restrooms, particularly those in hotels, and refrain from skin-to-skin contact with strangers.
The health official’s remarks about individuals from overseas stirred controversy among the Chinese.
As the South China Morning Post reports, many were uneasy about the “racist and discriminatory” factors in the advice.
One person comments, “How racist is this? What about the ones like me who have been living in China for almost 10 years and we haven’t seen our families in like 3-4 years due to the borders being closed.”
Others noted that China also has many ex-pats who have resided or worked in the country for an extended period.
Such as one Weibo user who wrote, “There are still so many foreign friends working in China. At the beginning of the epidemic, some foreign friends stood up and used social platforms to tell everyone that ‘Chinese people are not viruses.’”
According to Chongqing city, the transmission risks for this case are minimal as the patient had been staying in isolation as part of China’s pandemic protocol. It remains unclear whether the person is a foreigner or a Chinese national.