On Wednesday, Der Spiegel and the Washington Post reported that a planned joint statement by the G-7 countries on coronavirus was scrapped in part because U.S. officials demanded the statement refer to it as “Wuhan virus.”
“Other nations in the group of world powers rejected the term because they viewed it as needlessly divisive at a time when international cooperation is required to slow the global pandemic and deal with the scarcity of medical supplies, officials said,” wrote John Hudson and Souad Mekhennet. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has brushed off criticism of his use of the term, saying it’s important to point out that the virus came from the Chinese city of Wuhan and that China’s government had a special responsibility to warn the world about its dangers.”
There were other disagreements on the content of the statement among the member nations, but the dispute over naming was one of the most problematic.
“Wuhan virus” has been a preferred term for COVID-19 by some political commentators on the right. But it has largely been rejected by scientists who believe it is not a useful description. Some previous viruses have been referred to by the first place in which they were reported, but this has often resulted in public misconceptions. Moreover, some worry that a term that focuses on the virus’ origin in China could contribute to the rise of racist attacks on people of Asian descent.