As the COVID-19 spreads around the world, vaccine development and preventive measures against epidemics are underway. In the absence of exact information on the novel virus, there are cases of human rights violations that blame some groups for the spread of the epidemic.
A recent article posted in the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) included Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Black or African Americans, and racial and ethnic minority groups among those who might suffer stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, according to a recent report from the Los Angeles Times, the state of California is home to nearly 317,000 Pacific Islanders from Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and other Pacific islands, who have experienced infections and deaths because of COVID-19 at higher rates than most other groups. And this reality has led to the COVID-19 stigma against them.
The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), a coalition of AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders) community organizations, said that it received 1,497 reports of discrimination cases related to COVID-19 for about a month from last March to April.
According to a research paper published in BMJ, one of the top four medical journals in the world, India’s 201 million Muslim citizens now find themselves blamed for the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. In the southern Indian state of Karnataka, two Muslim men were reportedly beaten and made to kneel and apologize for “spreading the virus.”
The paper also mentioned cases of Cambodia and Israel, explaining that: In Cambodia, Buddhists are blaming Muslims. in Israel, Jews are blaming Arabs. Fear and misunderstanding are stoking hatred worldwide—and it’s harming the fight against the pandemic.
South Korea, which is considered as a good example of the COVID-19 response by countries around the world, is no exception in this matter. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said, “The international community has evaluated that South Korea is wisely responding to the crisis triggered by COVID-19 thanks to the sacrifice of health care workers, rapid response from the government and local governments, and mature civic awareness. But it is necessary to carefully respond by reviewing whether the COVID-19 response meets the international human rights standards set forth by the United Nations and whether there is any negligence in responding to the socially disadvantaged.”
As an example, a high school in South Korea has been under fire for conducting a survey on the health status of its students on the first day of school after the outbreak of COVID-19, asking whether they were members of Shincheonji Church. This is an extension of what happened in February when it was revealed that the 31st confirmed patient who was in the center of spread of COVID-19 was a member of Shincheonji.
From a webinar held by CESNUR(the Center for Studies on New Religions, and Human Rights Without Frontiers) recently, Mr. Alex Amicarelli, a London-based attorney and chairman of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief said, “When COVID-19 outbreak happened in South Korea, members of Shincheonji Church experienced losing prestige or jobs.” and added that “some South Korean politicians scapegoated Shincheonji as “the” cause of the COVID-19 crisis in South Korea, yet their real aim is to shut down the church to please conservative Christian voters.”
Kenneth H Young CD, a member of Canadian Veterans Advocacy said, “I truly believe that the separation of Church and State should remain clear. I realize that many countries are using Covid-19 as a reason or excuse to rid themselves of ‘inconvenient organizations’ within their respective countries, however the time to blame those organizations for Covid-19 problems was gone many years ago.”
The Permanent Secretary of Solomon Islands, Pauline McNeil said, “COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus and this virus can infect anyone. No one is to blame for getting COVID-19. From its rapid spread across the world, we have seen that COVID-19 does not respect borders, regardless where you are from, how rich or poor you are, or about your age, race, religion or gender, therefore we should not stigmatize anyone in the communities.”