Science journal Nature has set an example in scientific and even political circles by apologizing for previously labeling the novel coronavirus after Wuhan and China, Chinese observers said. The move, which underscored the journal’s respect for facts, honesty and objectivity, is being spoken highly of among Chinese experts and netizens.
In the editorial entitled “Stop the coronavirus stigma now,” Nature wrote that the World Health Organization (WHO) was implicitly sending a reminder to those who had erroneously associated the virus with Wuhan and with China in their news coverage – including Nature.
“That we did so was an error on our part, for which we take responsibility and apologize,” the journal said.
For years, it was common for viral diseases to be associated with the landscapes, places or regions where the first outbreaks occurred, Nature said.
“But in 2015, the WHO introduced guidelines to stop this practice and thereby reduce stigma and negative impacts such as fear or anger directed towards those regions or their people,” it added.
The pandemic is fueling deplorable racism and discrimination, especially against Asian people, Nature said.
The article also named a few politicians, including Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, for continuing to associate the virus with China, calling the behavior “irresponsible” and saying it “needs to stop.”
“Many leaders want to listen to and act on expert scientific advice to deal with this pandemic and save lives,” Nature wrote, adding “the advice is clear: we must all do everything we can to avoid and reduce stigma; not associate COVID-19 with particular groups of people or places; and emphasize that viruses do not discriminate – we are all at risk.”
The apology by Nature showed its pragmatic and scientific spirit, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday.
“The journal showed its professionalism in dealing with controversy stemming from the outbreak,” he said, adding that it has set an example in scientific circles and even political circles on the attitude to be adopted when discussing scientific topics, which shows respect for evidence, and for being honest and objective, rather than politicizing the matter.
The apology will consolidate its authority and the weight of its words, Li noted.
Chinese netizens showed their support to Nature on social media platform Sina Weibo. One net user said Nature is speaking in a manner respecting facts and proof. Another wrote that Nature may have had no idea what to call the virus before it had an official name, and it may have failed to notice the problem of linking a virus to a country, but a timely correction is worth encouraging.
Nature published an article “How quickly does the Wuhan virus spread?” on January 21, and called it “the Chinese virus” in the article “China closes in on vaccine for deadly pig virus” on March 13.