Empathy and evidence should guide our response to Coronavirus outbreak

February 11, 2020

The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in understandable anxieties about the global spread of this infectious disease and its potential impact on Canada. These anxieties, however, need to be tempered with reasoned judgement.

Currently, the risk to people in British Columbia and the rest of Canada is considered low, and public health authorities have been proactive in their efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

Nonetheless, the outbreak has given rise to disturbing racist and xenophobic reactions directed against people of Chinese ancestry. It is our obligation to speak out forcefully against these reactions, to counter irrational fears, and to prevent discriminatory behaviour against any particular communities or ethnic groups.

Simon Fraser University has a diverse and vibrant university community, many of whom are Canadians of Chinese descent. International students and scholars from Asia also account for a large portion of our undergraduate and graduate student body. These are valued members of our community who merit our unqualified respect.

It is important that we respond to this evolving health situation from an empathetic and evidence-based perspective. I want to reassure everyone that SFU is closely monitoring the situation, consulting regional and provincial medical health officers, and checking federal government advisories, for the latest information and recommendations.

We are striving to ensure that our three campuses are prepared and able to respond if needed.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to review SFU’s community web page for further information on what we are doing to address ongoing concerns about the Coronavirus.