A top Chinese health official has warned citizens against having skin contact with foreigners and recent returnees from abroad to avoid contracting monkeypox, triggering a social media backlash for his "racist and discriminatory" remarks.
China on Friday reported its first case of monkeypox in Chongqing city after a person who arrived from abroad developed rashes while in COVID-19 quarantine.
Following this, China's top epidemiologist Wu Zunyou warned citizens not to have skin contact with foreigners and recent returnees from abroad to avoid contracting the disease.
"To prevent possible monkeypox infection, and as part of our daily healthy lifestyle, [I] advise 1) don't have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners; 2) don't have skin-to-skin contact with people who have returned from abroad [in the past three weeks]," suggested Wu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
He also advised the public not to have skin-to-skin contact with strangers and to use disposable toilet seat covers in public facilities, including in hotels, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.
Wu's suggestions were ridiculed by many Chinese internet users, with some saying that they found them "racist and discriminatory".
"How racist is this? What about the ones like me who have been living in China for almost 10 years and we haven't seen our families in like 3-4 years due to the borders being closed," an user wrote on Weibo in response to a Global Times post about Wu's recommendations.
Another Weibo user said she found Wu's description "very inappropriate".
"There are still so many foreign friends working in China. At the beginning of the epidemic, some foreign friends stood up and used social platforms to tell everyone that 'Chinese people are not viruses'," she said.
The user further wrote that Chinese people should not now remain silent when many foreigners are facing discrimination in the country, the Post reported.
Another Weibo user wrote, "Is he (Wu) referring to a sexual relationship or just skin-to-skin contact? I guess he meant the former. But it is inevitable to have handshakes when you meet foreign guests. It's also hard to avoid skin contact on the bus."
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