The novel coronavirus now has its official name–COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). With the new name, WHO hopes to lessen the fear and stigma surrounding the disease, which is now spreading rampantly across the world.
The name of the disease is linked with the virus that causes it: it starts with “co” and “vi” for “coronavirus.” The “d” stands for disease, while “19” indicates the year that it was first discovered. The chosen name makes no reference to places, persons, or animals to prevent stigma.
According to Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the WHO, having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.
In the past couple of months, the Asian community, especially the Chinese, are facing verbal and physical abuse due to the fear and stigma surrounding the disease, which has claimed 1000 lives in China and is spreading all over the world. Fear of the virus, that originated in Wuhan, China, has impacted business and left residents facing avoidance and stigmatization.
As of writing, there is still no known cure for this disease.
The same fear and stigma over a disease also happened with the unprecedented Ebola virus epidemic between 2013 and 2016 in West Africa. In the time of the epidemic, people with color were discriminated against, abused and labeled as “Ebola” by a lot of people because of the disease’s origin country.
The ongoing battle against COVID-19 is still far from over, but we can minimize its effects by not only keeping ourselves healthy but also by not stigmatizing the disease. Let’s be sensitive and open-minded on serious things like the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pope Francis once said, “With particular sadness I think of the sufferings, the marginalization and the very real persecutions which not a few Christians are undergoing in various countries. Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding, and mutual forgiveness.”