Since COVID-19 broke out in Taiwan, there has been a fair amount of news regarding discrimination and “witch hunts” against medical personnel, people under self-quarantine and other targets, such as the students of a school where an infection was discovered.
Quarantine breakers are almost certainly on the loose and it is only natural for people to be vigilant. One in Chiayi was found by accident at a traffic stop because his helmet was not fastened.
However, those who follow the rules by quarantining themselves should be encouraged to keep up the good work in a difficult situation, instead of being subject to more aggravation. After all, they are also frontline prevention warriors helping the nation fight the disease, as National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health dean Chang Chang-chuan (詹長權) said last week. They are isolating themselves for the safety of the public and should not be subject to discrimination.
However, a student who returned from Spain on March 19 posted a video on the Internet last week, showing how the management of the building he lives in repeatedly harassed him, and told him that his presence was “repulsive” and “troublesome” for the neighbors. This was despite the student following self-quarantine measures to the letter.
The management even asked him to move out of the building, which would defeat the purpose of a quarantine.
Meanwhile, a high school that was closed for a week due to two students being infected reopened last week, but students said they were afraid to wear the school’s uniform in public, despite the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) keeping its name a secret.
There has been at least one incident of a bus driver refusing to let the students board, while people waiting for a bus often decline to get on after seeing the students, they said.
Coverage by the news media might give people the impression that a legion of quarantine breakers is running amok in public, but the CDC on Monday said there are nearly 50,000 people under self-quarantine in Taiwan, making the offenders a small percentage.
It said that these people are not infected — if they had been, they would be in hospital — adding that anybody could find themselves in their situation.
It is also not their fault that they had to isolate themselves — except those who unnecessarily traveled abroad after the pandemic became serious. The student who returned from Spain, for example, left Taiwan on Jan. 19, almost two months before the WHO declared a pandemic, but he still got blamed for traveling abroad.
However, the worst is discrimination against health workers who are giving their all on the front line of the battle against the outbreak. There have been several high-profile incidents, such as a restaurant refusing to deliver food to a hospital and a preschool asking the children of a nurse to stay at home.
An article in CommonHealth magazine last week detailed what health workers have to endure in their daily lives: A nurse overheard her older child advising a brother not to tell his classmates what their mother did for a living, while the in-laws of another told her not to come home after work.
People are understandably tense and fearful, but some go too far in their actions. There will always be a small minority who ruin things for everyone, but people should have more sympathy and understanding, as the pandemic does not seem to be going away any time soon.
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