I can see how such a pandemic can lead to racist attitudes towards the Chinese...

The Skinny | No 22. Coronavirus

What are we skinning? The coronavirus and how it applies to Malta, if at all.

Why are we skinning it? It’s sort of the global pandemic du jour, and like climate change but far more immediate in its impact, it’s difficult to ignore.

But the authorities seem to be telling us there’s nothing to worry about. The more sober angles of that amorphous lump you call ‘the authorities’, sure. But not everyone has been so level-headed about it, least of all certain elements of the international media.

But that’s always going to be the case with these kinds of things, isn’t it? You mean the sudden appearance of a potentially deadly pandemic that could easily wipe out a large chunk of the global population?

Well… there you go! Yes, no matter which way you spin it, it’s a deeply troubling development that calls for immediate action and reassurance… and exploitation by the media and/or whatever global conspiracy you like to entertain. But we’re talking about Malta here, remember? Where the sun is always shining and its people are protected by the grace of God.

Can the sarcasm, this is a serious subject! Malta being small and enclosed is all the more reason for us to worry about a pandemic breaking out and wiping all of us out in one fell swoop! Easy. While the picture you paint is certainly concerning, at the end of the day that’s all it remains – a picture. I’m more interested in the oh-so-Maltese cultural undercurrents that have slowly revealed themselves – online and elsewhere – after the outbreak was announced.

What kind of undercurrents? Well, the usual paranoia surrounding schoolkids and their parents, in a tight-knit community where gossip and hearsay is the order of the day. Allied to that is religious sentiment, with some devout members of our community opting to resort to prayer as a way of stemming the coronavirus’ infectious tide.

To each their own, I guess? I mean, we should be allowed to deal with these fears in whatever way we can muster. Sure, but calling emergency services to ask whether or not the coronavirus outbreak will affect your consumption of Chinese food?

Ouch. That brings to mind unsavoury echoes of the ‘Ebola fish’ paranoia. Exactly. Which dovetails to our next concern rather neatly: racism!

Yes, I can see how such a pandemic can lead to racist attitudes towards the Chinese to intensify even further. It certainly happened in our neighbouring Italy, a country that we’re keen to emulate, but only when it comes to its more negative aspects, it seems.

Let’s face it though, a racism epidemic is far more plausible a concern for Malta than anything the coronavirus or its many cousins can muster. Indeed. Sad but true.

Do say: “On a small island like Malta, we need to remain vigilant of both the health risks that the coronavirus entails, as well as how intensely social ostracism can be felt if we choose to isolate certain individuals as potential carriers on the mere basis of rumours and half-truths.”

Don’t say: “Travel should be banned for the foreseeable future.”

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