A top Chinese health official has warned the public to avoid “skin-to-skin contact with foreigners” to prevent the spread of monkeypox after the nation confirmed its first case.
The person had recently arrived from overseas and is in quarantine, health officials said earlier.
“To prevent possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that 1) you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners,” Wu Zunyou (吳尊友), chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), wrote in a post on Sina Weibo on Saturday.
Wu also urged people to avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who had been abroad within the past three weeks, as well as all “strangers.”
He said China’s strict COVID-19 restrictions and tight border controls had so far prevented the spread of monkeypox, and cautioned against allowing cases to “slip through the net.”
His post was widely shared across Chinese social media platforms over the weekend, but the comments section under the initial post was disabled.
Some who commented on forwarded versions or screenshots of his post were concerned Wu’s guidelines could lead to xenophobia, and drew parallels to the violence Asian people overseas faced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the association of the virus with people of Chinese heritage.
Several wrote that there were foreign workers and long-time residents in China who have not left the country due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Did someone jump and scream discrimination?” one commentator wrote.
“Does he know that many foreigners have been staying in China for years?” another said.
The patient is a 29-year-old salesman who engaged in male-to-male sex when he visited Berlin this month, the CCDC said in a separate report, adding that he then traveled to Spain before returning to China.
Asked whether the warning is official government policy, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning (毛寧) yesterday said it “is an issue relation to public health” and that it was “not a diplomatic issue.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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