WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Joe Biden today signed an executive order effectively banning phrases such as “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” when it is used to reference COVID-19, reports say. The order applies to federal agencies and their members as well as in all public health documents and resources.
The phrase “China virus” was coined by former President Donald Trump, who has publicly blamed China for the global COVID-19 pandemic that has currently infected over 100 million people worldwide and is responsible for 2.16 million deaths, with over 400,000 of those being U.S. citizens. “Wuhan virus” refers to the Chinese city of Wuhan, which some have linked to the initial outbreak of the virus.
Both terms are considered by many to be offensive to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Biden’s order states that these groups have endured discrimination and even violence as a result of their usage.
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“The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” Biden’s order said. “Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons.”
Biden’s order directs all federal agencies to officially remove the language from all “official actions, documents, and statements,” and to make sure that said documents “do not exhibit or contribute to racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
However, the move was questioned by some commentators, including Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, who tweeted the following in response to terminology recently used to describe new COVID-19 variants.
“If we can use the term ‘British Variant’ and a ‘South African Variant,’ then why are we reluctant to refer to the #CoronaVirus as the ‘Chinese Virus’?”
Infectious diseases throughout history have been named for the geographic locations where they are believed to have originated from such as the Spanish flu, West Nile virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Dengue Fever, Zika, Ebola, Lyme Disease, Legionnaires’ Disease among hundreds more.
The move comes just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a stark warning against the new Biden administration on a range of issues, urging multilateral coordination to tackle global challenges such as the pandemic.
“To build small circles or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to willfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions, to create isolation or estrangement, will only push the world into division and even confrontation,” Mr. Xi told the World Economic Forum
The move was also criticized by Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo who said “It began in Wuhan, it is in fact, a virus that came from that place and we know that the Chinese Communist Party covered that up.”