Friday, February 7, 2020

Alberta Premier joins Chinese community in warning against succumbing to racism amid coronavirus scare

Alberta Premier joins Chinese community in warning against succumbing to racism amid coronavirus scare

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney chats with diners before having dinner in the Silver Dragon restaurant in Calgary's Chinatown on Saturday night. 

Members of Calgary’s Chinese-Canadian community are urging residents to remain calm and avoid spreading hate as worry over novel coronavirus grows.
“We are concerned about racism and xenophobia that may be creeping into the dialogue here in Calgary around the novel coronavirus epidemic centred in Wuhan province, China,” said Calgary Chinese Community Service Association co-chairs Thomas Cheuk and Norman Poon in a statement.
“We urge Calgarians to remain calm and not direct misplaced concern towards Chinese-Canadian Calgarians.”
Though the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health emergency Thursday, public health officials in Alberta have stressed that risk from the virus remains low.
So far, the province has tested 18 people for novel coronavirus since the New Year, with each case coming back negative. On Friday, Alberta’s medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw announced the province was upgrading its response level for the virus, a move that increases the level of resources allocated to their response.
“This isn’t a measure we’re taking because the risk has changed,” Hinshaw said Friday. “The best antidote to misinformation is providing accurate information as much as we can.”
Premier Jason Kenney echoed the comments speaking out against xenophobia Saturday, when he addressed media before having dinner at the Silver Dragon Restaurant in Chinatown.
“There is no risk, according to the health experts, and the notion that Canadians of one ethnic background would be more likely to carry a virus that doesn’t exist in Alberta is just misinformation,” Kenney said. “People should come and patronize our fantastic Chinatown merchants and Chinese-Canadian-owned businesses.”
The move is evocative of then-Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, who ate lunch in a Toronto Chinatown restaurant during the 2003 SARS health emergency, asking Canadians to practise tolerance amid reports of a hit to businesses run by Chinese-Canadians.
In Calgary’s Chinatown, business is continuing as usual, says Terry Wong, the executive director of the district’s Business Improvement Area. It’s one of the busiest times of year for Chinatown, with the recent Lunar New Year having passed and their ice sculpture showcase slated to begin this week.
“Most Calgarians are responsible and they understand that the coronavirus doesn’t affect Alberta yet,” Wong said. “I won’t deny that people on their own accord are asking questions and deciding whether they will come (to Chinatown) and I won’t deny that some businesses are concerned about if this global situation continues.
“The message is that the concern that Albertans have is a reasonable one but it’s also a speculative one.”
The CCCSA noted that someone who is of Chinese origin or emigrated from Wuhan doesn’t have a heightened risk of being exposed to or of exposing others to coronavirus.
They added that Chinese-Calgarian children shouldn’t be excluded from events in their communities due to fear over the illness.
There are four confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada, and more than 12,000 worldwide. Of the Canadian cases, three are in Ontario and one is in British Columbia.
Coronavirus is most likely in those who have recently travelled to Wuhan or who have been in close contact with someone who has travelled to the Chinese city. Its symptoms include a runny nose, fever, sore throat and coughing.
Albertans who have specific concerns about having been exposed to coronavirus can call Alberta Health Link at 811.

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