The recent re-labeling of the novel coronavirus with xenophobic undertones by some U.S. politicians to stigmatize China has drawn widespread criticism.
As the international community works together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a few American politicians are shifting blame to China for the virus' spread by recasting it as a "Chinese virus" or "foreign virus."
Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program, warned on Wednesday against using the phrase "Chinese virus," saying that "Viruses know no borders, and they don't care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank."
"So it's really important we be careful in the language we use," Ryan said at a news conference in Geneva, giving an example of the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.
The pandemic "originated in North America and we didn't call it the North American flu," he said, calling for solidarity and joint efforts of all countries.
Ryan was echoed by co-founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates, who wrote on Wednesday in an Ask Me Anything session on the American social news platform Reddit that "we should not call this the Chinese virus."
The tally of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 218,000 and spans 158 countries and regions, according to the latest statistics from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University,
With the world facing an escalating challenge from the disease, "it's also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy," the WHO wrote on its Twitter feed on Wednesday.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday refuted the White House's racist remarks on Twitter, saying that "coronavirus does not discriminate."
"Bigotry against people of Asian descent is unacceptable, un-American, & harmful to our COVID-19 response efforts," the Massachusetts lawmaker wrote.
U.S. Representative Lois Frankel said on Twitter Wednesday that she was "disappointed, but unsurprised" at the White House's decision to use xenophobic language during this global pandemic.
She urged the government to promote international cooperation instead of racism to combat the disease.
Public Policy Committee Chairman of the Committee of 100 Charlie Woo said in a statement that any attempt to ascribe the virus to one culture, ethnicity or country can only hinder the global effort to combat the epidemic.
"This crisis requires science, facts and clear language, not fear-mongering, finger-pointing and xenophobia by our public servants," the statement said, quoted by the New York Times.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a non-profit legal aid organization, told NBC Asian America that the U.S. administration's words could have negative repercussions.
The usage of such racist terms has "led to a noticeable incline in hate incidents that we are seeing," Yang was quoted by the NBC report. "I do think that there is a correlation," he added.