The University of Iowa

In the news: Webinar series highlights voices from Asia to understand pandemic as a global Event

September 23rd, 2020

Shuang Chen Special To The Press-Citizen

Shuang Chen and Cynthia Chou, The Press-Citizen

When some Asian countries experienced the outbreak of coronavirus in January 2020, most people living in other parts of the world had thought it to be somebody else’s problem. This mindset persisted after the infectious disease of COVID-19 became a pandemic. Extreme representations of this prejudice include the reference to the “China virus” by various political groups in the United States and several European countries, and people presumed to be Asian increasingly became the target of hate crimes. At the same time, the psyche of “other’s problem” had a much broader presence, which led to the dismissal of knowledge produced in Asian countries about COVID-19. For example, despite the spread of COVID-19 in the United States in late February, it was not until April 3 that the CDC recommended the use of face coverings to help slow down the spread of the virus. Now, as the U.S. becomes the epicenter, the psyche of “we” and “the others” must be broken to embrace a global perspective to probe the far-reaching social and cultural consequences of the pandemic.

Reflecting on pandemic experiences in human history, many parallels appear in different countries across the world. Regardless of the forms of government and economy, a pandemic presents serious challenges to both the state and the society. It challenges the ability and effectiveness of governments to collect and assess information, make decisions and mobilize the people and resources to control the spread of the virus. A pandemic also enlarges the structural inequalities that have existed in a society, exposing the most vulnerable and neglected groups in local communities to the virus. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia was the first area to experience the coronavirus, impose lockdowns and to see the virus brought under control. It was also the first to experience a resurgence of infection due to the myopic and uneven response to forgotten communities.

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