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Singapore man in N95 mask distances himself from nurse waiting for the same lift – discrimination amidst the COVID-19 outbreak?


“Is the public so fearful of us nurses or medical officers?” asked the nurse.

Photo for illustrative purposes only/Singapore Nurses Association Facebook

SINGAPORE – On Thursday (Feb 18), Facebook group All Singapore Stuff shared a reader’s contribution, a sad story of the discrimination in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. A nurse reported that when she was waiting for a lift, a man wearing a mask quickly moved away when he saw her, and he exited another lift just because another nurse was in it.

Since the coronavirus started its spread around the world in January of this year from its epicentre in Wuhan, China, many other peripheral issues have arisen, including reports of stigma and discriminatory behaviour towards people of Asian descent.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on world leaders to help “stop the stigma and hate” during the deadly outbreak.

“We must stop stigma and hate,” Ghebreyesus said Saturday (Feb 15) during an address at the Munich Security Conference. “It’s easy to blame, it’s easy to politicise, it’s harder to tackle a problem together and find solutions together”.

Stories of discrimination, not only against Asians but also against medical staff, have surfaced, revealing that what’s truly at the root of this behaviour is fear—fear of getting infected with the virus.

The nurse’s post on All Singapore Stuff relayed an experience the nurse had with “an uncle wearing an N95 mask”.

The nurse went to get a late lunch at a mall, still wearing their nurse uniform. At the lifts, there was an uncle wearing an N95 mask.

“As soon as he saw me, he quickly moved away from me and went to wait for another lift,” shared the nurse.

The nurse went on to say that the uncle got into another lift, but before the doors closed, a different nurse entered the elevator.

“Shocked by the presence of another nurse, the uncle quickly exited the second lift with a frustrated expression on his face as he couldn’t avoid medical staffs, (sic)” continued the nurse.

Despite trying to get away from the nurses, the uncle ended up sharing the same first lift with the nurse who shared this story.

The nurse said that the uncle distanced himself “to one corner away from me” while they were in the lift together.

“Is the public so fearful of us nurses or medical officers?” asked the nurse.

Netizens had a variety of strong reactions to the post. Some were in support of the nurse and agreed that the man’s actions were uncalled for:

“We are all human,” said one netizen, calling for fair and equal treatment:

Some social media users pointed out that elderly people are at a higher risk when it comes to catching the infection and that the uncle was just taking extra precautions:

And this one user spoke directly to the nurse, encouraging them to keep up the good work in this “time of crisis”, and to the uncle, wishing good health upon him:

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown the world into chaos and has brought about a lot of fear and panic. Currently, more than 75,000 worldwide have been infected with the virus, and more than 2,000 have died. /TISG


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