Spain’s Chinese community’s fight against coronavirus and xenophobia started early

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Weeks before Spain announced a nationwide lockdown to combat the new coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese community there had already taken their own measures – shutting their stores, wearing masks, and banding together to fend off xenophobia.

“Because of the fear experienced in China, we see the epidemic differently than Spanish people,” said Xiao Kangyung, 36, who was born in Shanghai but has been living in Spain since 1996.

“In China, the situation is experienced at the other extreme of communication practice. We spread fear to the population to get people to stay home. So we have the feeling that the Spanish people have taken everything lightly, and haven’t made the right decisions,” she said.

The country of 46 million people has quickly become a hotspot for the disease in Europe, second only to Italy, where there have been 1,002 deaths and 19,980 contagions to date.

On March 8, mass marches in the streets – encouraged by the government – for International Women’s Day were followed by a dramatic increase in infections in the capital, Madrid. Days later, the Pedro Sanchez government followed the example of other countries fighting the pandemic and declared a national “state of alarm”.

The decree limited all movements except the essential – going to work, buying food or medicines, visiting the bank or attending to dependent people – for 15 days. Schools, universities, shops, bars and restaurants were all closed. And, from March 16, land borders were closed to everyone except Spanish nationals and residents.

For Spain’s 200,000 strong Chinese community, which had already been taking steps to minimise exposure to the virus, the government’s measures came too late. Signs had begun popping up on storefronts of Chinese-run shops at the beginning of March, saying “closed for holidays until the end of March” or “closed until further notice”.

The number of businesses that closed due to the coronavirus ahead of the government-mandated lockdown is unknown, but Xiao, a lawyer and adviser to freelancers and SMEs, said “half of her clients” had done so.

Source : South China Morning Post

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