How The Coronavirus Affects The Life Of Asian Students In Moscow

Tsuen Ing Wang on the situation with the coronavirus and attitude to it.

How The Coronavirus Affects The Life Of Asian Students In Moscow

Since the initial spread of the coronavirus from China, the virus epidemic has rapidly spread to other parts of the world. A number of countries in Europe, America, and Asia-Pacific have announced confirmed cases. In just the past week, a countrywide outbreak surfaced in Iran, spawning additional cases in Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain. Italy put 10 towns in the north on lockdown after the virus rapidly spread there. Meanwhile, South Korea’s outbreak kept growing explosively and Japan reported additional cases in the wake of the botched quarantine of a cruise ship. Many countries have also introduced measures to prevent the virus from spreading further in response to circumstances.

However, now the coronavirus fears not only have affects our daily life, but also have unleashed a wave of anti-Asian discrimination in the world.

How’s the situation in Moscow? How does the coronavirus affect the life of Asians in Moscow? Now Moscow officials ordered police to search hotels, dormitories, apartments, and businesses to track down Chinese people in Moscow. Authorities have also authorized the use of face recognition technology to screen those suspected of arriving in Russia without 14 days of self-quarantine. However, many Asian students complained that Russian police totally cannot distinguish between Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and so on. Every day they have to waste a lot of time dealing with police in the metro. Once the police find that you are Chinese and have not been quarantined at home within 14 days of entering Russia, they will send you to the hospital for compulsory quarantine, regardless of whether you have been to China or not in the past three months. The actions of the government of Moscow have seriously influenced the life of all Asians.

"Now I’m afraid of going outside and taking public transportation." - Ottilie Kan, a student of HSE, from Hong Kong.

"Due to the virus, the controller prohibited me to run my restaurant. He thinks that Chinese and Vietnamese people are the same……..I don’t know when I can open my restaurant again." - A proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant.

The fear of the virus gradually caused the phenomenon of Chinese exclusion, and there also were incidents of discrimination against Asians in Russia. There was a man who was beating the head of a Taiwanese student in the metro and shouting: "Get out of Russia because you are the virus!" At that time no one stood out to help that student, other passengers just stared at him with glaring eyes. There was also a student who was splashed with juice on the street in Saint Petersburg.

"A man shouted ‘F*** you!’ and called me a virus on the metro." - Kim Jiwon, a student of HSE, from Korea.

"When I was getting out of the metro, a man yelled at me and called me a virus." -  Chang Chia-Hsuan, a student of HSE, from Taiwan.

There are also many discriminative and inequality events that have happened in student dormitories.

"The head of the dorm required all Chinese students to check their temperature (pass the medical examination) every day. I haven’t been to China for a long time and I am not living with Chinese. I have the same chance of being infected by the coronavirus with Russians……Their attitude was awful to Chinese students…… When I showed them my British passport, they suddenly changed their attitude, apologized to me, and told me that if I used the UK passport to enter Russia then I needed to take the examination, however, if I used the Hong Kong passport then the medical examination is obligatory. Therefore, if my nationality was not China, I wouldn’t be infected?" - Ottilie Kan, a student of HSE, from Hong Kong.

"I arrived in Moscow on the 26th of February. The head of the dorm didn’t allow me to stay in the dorm and declined to communicate with me. Even when I called a Taiwan representative to talk to her in order to solve the problem, she refused to take my phone and said that my phone had virus…….I haven’t been to China and also handed out the medical certificate which she required. But now I’m still quarantined in a room of the dorm. Besides, my Russian roommate just returned to Moscow from a month-long Europe trip. Why doesn’t she need to be quarantined?" - Dan Dan Lee, a student of HSE, from Taiwan.

Why are we equating the virus and its spread to a specific race? Viruses don’t discriminate - they are equal opportunities targeting all human. Public dissemination has been constant regarding preventive measures, which are essentially basic personal hygiene and sanitation that we all have been taught at school and at home. I hope people can face the main problem and learn how to protect themselves not make it become a racial problem.

Text by
Tsuen Ing Wang