China Walks Back Advice Against Touching Foreigners

Country's CDC issued controversial recommendation after monkeypox case detected
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2022 4:40 PM CDT
China's CDC Warns Against Touching Foreigners
This image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows a colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (red) found within an infected cell.   (NIAID via AP, File)

China recorded its first case of monkeypox Saturday—and a top health official faced a backlash after saying people shouldn't touch foreigners. Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the case detected in Chongqing had "slipped through the net," CNN reports. His main recommendation to the public was to "not have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners." Critics on the Weibo social media platform called the advice racist and said it was reminiscent of how Chinese people overseas were shunned early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wu's critics also noted that most of China's foreign residents have not left the country recently because of tough anti-COVID measures including a mandatory 14- to 21-day quarantine for people returning from overseas. Authorities initially described the Chongqing patient as an "international arrival" whose monkeypox infection was discovered while they were in quarantine, but they did not say whether the patient was a foreigner or a Chinese national. The Chinese CDC later said the man was a 29-year-old Chinese salesman who had sex with men during a trip to Germany earlier this month, the South China Morning Post reports. The agency said the man had also visited Spain.

Wu updated his advice Monday, asking people to avoid "intimate direct skin-to-skin contact" with foreigners or anybody else who had returned from areas with monkeypox outbreaks, the Post reports. He said the chances of a major outbreak in China are slim. As the spread of monkeypox "in the two high-risk areas—America and Europe—subsides, the pressure on us to prevent the import of cases into mainland China has been reduced," Wu said. (Read more monkeypox stories.)

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