The spread and deaths of the coronavirus COVID-19 has also sparked a disturbing trend in some parts of the world with people from Asia and of Asian descent being targeted. Businesses owned and run by Asians have taken a hit, particularly in the food industry, as people irrationally fear catching the virus at such outlets. To combat this, the #IWillEatWithYou campaign on social media is trying to drum up support for affected businesses and take on xenophobia.
The World Health Organisation has spoken about people being targeted due to stereotypes in a recent report.
“Since the emergence of #COVID19 we have seen instances of public stigmatization among specific populations and the rise of harmful stereotypes,” it said in a recent report. “Stigma occurs when people negatively associate an infectious disease with a specific population. This means that people are being labelled, stereotyped, separated and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with #COVID19.”
The spread of the trending hashtag started with an initiative in Australia to fight racism and xenophobia, where politicians and celebrities jumped in to fight stigma and bust myths. Progressive political activist group GetUp! are credited with coming up with the campaign.
Much loved Chinese & Asian restaurants are at risk of going under.
Misinformation and fear about coronavirus has left many eateries losing huge numbers of customers.
Can you pledge #IWillEatWithYou & eat at an Asian restaurant to show your support? 👇https://t.co/nS65NPpgZV
— GetUp! (@GetUp) February 18, 2020
“While other restaurants and public spaces are still buzzing, it is the Chinatown restaurants and Asian grocers that stand empty,” the group said in an online post. “Panic around the virus is unfairly impacting Chinese and Asian communities. If we don’t take action – people will lose their jobs, and their livelihoods,” the group said in its appeal.
And soon, people answered their call.
Very sad to see our local favourite Szechuan restaurant near Sydney University so empty – normally bustling with activity, students & locals. Took no delight in it being easy to get a table, and will be going back regularly #iwilleatwithyou #coronavirus #coronavirusaustralia pic.twitter.com/LiIMECRTJV
— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) February 23, 2020
Supporting our Chinese brothers and sisters was a great way to kick off the weekend. Couldn’t make it to #Chinatown so compromised. My little family enjoying dinner at our fave dumpling spot in Ringwood #IWillEatWithYou pic.twitter.com/OmHADEALv2
— Amy Linnea Muratore (@amy_linnea) February 21, 2020
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Today I eat Yong Tau Foo(stuffed bean curd) for my lunch at one of the finest authentic Malaysian restaurants located in Flemington, Melbourne and yet I am not scared of the Corona Virus and the rumors associated with it come on people support your local/favorite Asian /Chinese restaurant there is nothing to be afraid of #supportlocals #iwilleatwithyou #supportourcommunities #showracismthearse
The campaign came even as 30-year-old Cantonese dimsum restaurant Shark Fin House in Melbourne closed last week after reporting an 80 per cent drop in business, according to a Seven News report. “It’s very hard… With customer fears of coronavirus still high, we can see numbers reducing,” Gabriel Chan, the owner told The Age. “We’re very sad, very unhappy, but we still have to work, so I would tell the people don’t scare, come to the restaurant, support us.”
It wasn’t just Chinese restaurants that suffered. A popular Vietnamese restaurant Bia Hoi too saw a sharp decline in sales. Taking to Instagram owner and chef Jerry Mai appealed all for help. “Chinatown and Glen Waverley are ghost towns right now, diners are staying away because of fears of illness. I’m putting my hand up – my businesses are suffering and I need help,” Mai wrote last week.
However, following the campaign, he said sales had risen. Thanking people for their love, the chef said the support should continue as they are still not out of the woods yet.
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It’s been a roller coaster ride the last few weeks. We’ve hit high highs and low lows. Thank you to all the amazing people that have come out to support us and many other Asian restaurants. The amount of people that have reached out have been phonomenal! Thanks to my amazing team their amazing work and understanding! Please keep coming out to eat. We still need you! #melbourne #family #teamwork #coronavírus #noroomforracism #supportlocal
To celebrate the special weekend of the leap year, people in the UK will participate in the campaign.
Chinese and Asian people in the UK are facing rising levels of racist abuse related to #coronavirus. This weekend, participate in the #IWillEatWithYou campaign: go visit an East or Southeast Asian eatery to support these communities! Organised by @dianayeh @danielfyork and others pic.twitter.com/0dGDkHa9u1
— Jessie Lau (@_laujessie) February 26, 2020
The campaign has started getting momentum elsewhere as well. People in the US and other European nations have been sharing photos of eating out or ordering from various East Asian restaurants.
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As if I needed more reasons to post food pictures? I really like the idea of the #IWillEatWithYou push , encouraging people to eat at Chinese and Asian restaurants and patronizing Chinese and Asian businesses to support them during this coronavirus hysteria and xenophobia. Had the spicy mung bean #noodles and cumin #lamb at @cafechina . I highly recommend checking out Cafe China whenever you’re in midtown NYC. If you need any other Chinese or Asian food recommendations and you want to support these businesses, just hit me up. #chinesefood #sichuanfood #szechuanfood #foodpics #foodgram #foodporn #newyorkeats #newyorkfood #fuckxenophobia #fuckracism #chineserestaurant #wuhanjiayou #wuhanstrong
— Ash Green (@AshUKTradeCQ) February 26, 2020
Some of the UCD Global team enjoying a working lunch at their local Chinese restaurant
— UCD Global (@GlobalUCD) February 20, 2020
Worries over the ever-expanding fallout of the COVID-19 have multiplied globally, with factories idled, trade routes frozen and tourism crippled, while a growing list of nations braced for the illness to breach their borders, said an Associated Press report.
The WHO reported that the number of new cases outside China on Tuesday exceeded the number of new infections inside the country for the first time. The number in China was 412, while the tally in the rest of the world was 459.
About 81,000 people around the globe have been sickened by the coronavirus that kept finding new targets. With Brazil confirming the arrival of Latin America’s first case, the virus had a toehold on every continent but Antarctica.
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