The coronavirus was discovered in December of 2019 in Wuhan, China and has been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization.
There are over 28,000 confirmed cases and 564 deaths in China, with four cases of the virus confirmed in Canada.
The virus is believed to have about a 2% mortality rate. This is comparable to the mortality rate of the seasonal flu.
Though the risk of coronavirus is small, xenophobia has risen towards members of the Chinese-Canadian community.
For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada recently denounced conspiracy theories claiming two Chinese men manufactured the virus in the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. It was a lie.
Ryerson University students also reportedly posted fake social media posts “confirming” multiple coronavirus cases on campus. This was also a lie.
Lei Wei is a paramedic student in Chatham, Ontario. The 20-year-old is doing a job placement at the Chatham Public General Hospital.
Wei says she has experienced an increase in calls from people convinced they could have symptoms of coronavirus. However, she says the likelihood of getting the virus is small.
“We should all be more educated on the virus and how it spreads and the presence of this virus in Canada. It’s very scarce, even in major cities. So, the chances of having it right at this moment are very slim. But people still assume they have it,” she says.
Wei also says education is important to avoid discrimination.
“I’ve had difficulty engaging with some patients since the virus broke out. Some people are not comfortable coming in contact with me or some just look more hesitant. But I understand that they are just misinformed,” she added.
Wei said she understands the concerns surrounding the virus, but people should not panic. “It’s normal to be scared when you think a big deadly virus is spreading like the plague, but that’s just not the case here.”
In 2003 Canada suffered an outbreak of another virus called SARS. That virus claimed 44 lives in Canada. Regrettably, Chinese-Canadians were the target of xenophobia. People who normally shopped at Chinese-operated malls and restaurants no longer wanted to visit and businesses suffered.
CTV News reports businesses in Chinatown in Toronto are losing customers since the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, Torontonians took to the streets to show their support for Chinese businesses.