News Flash – 28 February 2020

National News



Corona Scare, Ignorance are Fueling Social Tensions


New Delhi: Global anxiety about the spread of the novel coronavirus has fueled racial tensions, prompting the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday to urge the world to tackle the “disturbing wave of prejudice” against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity. In India as well, the virus spawned fear has stoked xenophobic sentiments. Earlier this month, a student of Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College who hails from the Northeast complained to college authorities that she was called ‘coronavirus’ on campus by a group of students. The principal, Vibha Singh Chauhan, said the college would soon hold a sensitisation programme for students. In Mumbai, a resident of a housing society shot and circulated a video of a woman from Nagaland, suspecting her to be Chinese. The 23-year-old woman had arrived from Kohima to visit a friend a tenant in the society on February 10 when another resident shot a video of her and again sent it to the landlord. The friend hosting the woman, a 23-year-old from Nagaland studying at Tata Institute of Social Sciences(TISS), said, “I was shocked to see the video where my friend was being filmed by my neighbour.



His wife even asked my friend to leave the building.” Fear of and ignorance about coronavirus is increasingly resulting in anyone with East Asian features or people from China and its neighbourhood becoming targets of racist slurs and discrimination in campuses, hotels, and malls. About the time Lui (name changed), a 27-year-old Chinese man, reached Kerala for the last leg of his solo expedition across Southeast Asia, the severity of an unassuming flulike illness reported from a sea market in China had become apparent. By February 4, thousands of cases of the novel coronavirus had come to light. All the hotels Lui went to, including government-run guest houses, denied him accommodation because he was Chinese. When he approached the city police commissioner for help, he was taken to the isolation ward of a hospital though he did not have any symptoms. For two weeks, the hospital was Lui’s home. Later, tests cleared him of infection and yet no hotel was ready to take him in.



Rioting Mobs Leave Behind Ghost Town, Over 3,000 Houses Deserted


New Delhi: On the roads of certain areas of Shiv Vihar, you will not spot a soul. While everyone’s attention has been on the key riot zones like Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri and Maujpur-Jafrabad, areas surrounding Phase 8 and 9 in Shiv Vihar along the Loni (Ghaziabad) border have the eerie look of abandoned habitations. More than 3,000 houses lie abandoned, hundreds have been ransacked. The untended shops and factories of the deserted Shiv Vihar were being looted even when TOI visited the area on Thursday evening. Sudha Devi, 45, one of the few Hindu residents of the area, alleged that police and the city administration had forsaken them. “Where were you when gas cylinders were being used to burn down houses here,” she asked, her eyes surveying the half burnt houses and charred skeletons on cars. Devi’s husband, a transport department employee, said the family has moved in with relatives in Shanti Nagar. “A crowd of more than 2,000 burned down these houses on Monday night. It was a nightmare,” he shuddered, adding, “Bhagwan na kare kabhi kisi ke sath ab aisa ho (I pray God won’t let this happen to anyone else).” The only reason they were in Shiv Vihar was to save their house from arsonists. In a mixed locality dominated by Muslims, the houses there still had smoke billowing out on Thursday. Two places of worship were damaged, with the shells of exploded cylinders lying there a tell-tale sign. Rioters, in particular, targeted religious inscriptions. Gaurav Kumar said that all the Muslims had left the colony. “There is no one to talk to even,” the dejected man said, glancing at the charred remains of his neighbours’ houses.



A Muslim family, hurrying to leave the area, did not want to say anything. “There is nothing for us here now. We will start our lives somewhere else,” one of the women said. Their voices were the only sound save for the cawing of crows along the stretch of 25 Foota Road, where some houses had ‘Jai Shri Ram’ scrawled on doors in an attempt to save themselves from rioters. One landlord talked of his tenants for the past 15 years. “Saleem sahab and his family packed their bags and left when passions started to intensify on Monday. I never had any problem with them. But seeing what is left now, it is good they left,” he remarked. Water and electricity supply remain cut. Residents said that despite the presence of the Rapid Action Force, there still is fear. “The security personnel are on the main road, not on the interior lanes. It has been four days since we slept properly,” said Gaurav Kumar’s father. “When it turns dark, we sit outside our houses because inside we won’t even come to know if someone comes to burn the house down. At least outside we can run to safety”. Many bakeries in the area were owned by Muslims who had employed mostly Hindu workers and salesman. Ram Kumar, a supply agent for the bakeries, said he had surely lost his source of income with the bakeries all lying shuttered now. He looked dejectedly at children helping themselves to rusks at a bakery he once worked for.



International News



US, Germany Report First Cases of Infection from Unknown Source


USA: The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection. The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins. Public health officials said the infected individual was a resident of Solano County, in Northern California, but they have not disclosed any other information to protect the patient’s privacy. Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week. But the CDC has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. The CDC could not be reached for comment. The new case, in which the source of infection is unknown, is cause for concern, experts said. “That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.



All of the 59 other cases in the US had travelled from abroad or had been in close contact with those who traveled. Health officials have been on high alert for so called community spread. Meanwhile, health officials in Germany reacted aggressively on Thursday after a man with no known connection to anyone infected with the coronavirus tested positive for the illness. In addition to closing schools in the community where he lived, they reached out to hundreds of people who took part in a carnival celebration over the weekend where the man was also present, urging them to stay home. Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the man lives, said that the authorities were still trying to figure out how the man had contracted the coronavirus virus. He remains critically ill. In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases. Those infected include Masoumeh Ebtekar one of Iran’s seven vice presidents who oversees women and family affairs, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi and two MPs. Ebtekar’s case was said to be mild. In Europe, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported their first cases, while several other countries registered new infections.

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