New Zealand health authority apologizes for referring to COVID-19 as 'Wuhan Coronavirus'

By Zhao Juecheng and Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/21 15:04:51

An outdated pamphlet which was handed to passengers disembarking flights arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand from the Chinese mainland in late January referred to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan Coronavirus." Photo: Screenshot from Sina Weibo


A local health authority in New Zealand on Saturday apologized for distributing a pamphlet referring to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan Coronavirus," which had sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

New Zealand's Canterbury District Health Board said the outdated flyer was only used early on in the outbreak when the virus was commonly referred to using this incorrect nomenclature, and the virus name was soon adjusted.

Photos of the pamphlet began to circulate on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo on Friday.

In both Chinese and English, the flyer called for people who had spent time in China in the last 14 days, or who had been in close contact with people diagnosed with the virus and feel unwell with symptoms including fever, cough and breathing difficulties, to inform public health staff in New Zealand.

The social media posts soon angered Chinese internet users and Chinese people living in New Zealand, who believed this was another move from a foreign country to blame Wuhan and China for the pandemic.

The flyer was used early on in the COVID-19 outbreak and handed to passengers disembarking flights arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand from the Chinese mainland, the Canterbury District Health Board told the Global Times in an email on Saturday, noting that the first flight had been met on January 27.

"At that time, the virus was commonly referred to as the Wuhan Coronavirus. As the virus spread, the name changed: first to coronavirus, then COVID-19. These are the terms used in our subsequent posters and flyers," the email read. "This is an old, outdated flyer that was handed to people arriving at the airport."

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared "COVID-19" the name of the disease on February 11.

"We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference.

"Canterbury District Health Board apologizes for any offense caused by the circulation [on social media] of this outdated airport-handout flyer," the local health authority said in the email.


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