A local healthy agency on Tuesday warned South Africans against stigmatising people infected with coronavirus in the country, saying viruses do not target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds.The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that it had noted a disturbing stigmatisation pattern against people from the coronavirus affected areas which now includes Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
The stigma was happening despite there being no confirmed case of the virus in the country, the NCID said.
It added: “Stigma has the potential to drive people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination and further prevent people from seeking healthcare.
“This can lead to difficulties in identifying and controlling the spread of COVID-19 should it reach our shores.”
According to the NICD, all the 160 people it has tested in the country for the virus, none of them have proved positive.
“Given that COVID-19 is a new disease, it is understandable that its emergence and possible importation into South Africa may cause confusion, anxiety and fear among the general public.
“We urge the public to desist from participating in stereotyping and discriminating against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation,” the NICD said.
Coronavirus symptoms include respiratory illness – like coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Some 3000 people have so far died from the disease, most of them from China, where the virus originated due to eating bush meat like bats and snakes.