Finance Minister Taro Aso and other Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have made statements that the new coronavirus “should be called the ‘Wuhan virus.’” The World Health Organization (WHO) has guidelines stating that place names are not to be used in the names of infectious diseases from the perspective of preventing discrimination and a negative economic impact against the people of a certain area. Statements using the “Wuhan virus” run the risk of encouraging discrimination and causing damage due to rumors.
At the Feb. 10 meeting of the Upper House Financial Affairs Committee, Aso said, “This virus started in Wuhan and ’Wuhan virus’ is the correct name for it.” He used the term “Wuhan virus” a total of five times.
In response, LDP Lower House member Takashi Nagao posted on Twitter the same day: “Well done, Minister Aso! China has started to manipulate information to make it appear that mishandling of the virus by Japan and South Korea is what has caused the virus to spread around the world. That’s why we need to call it the Wuhan virus.” LDP Upper House member Hiroshi Yamada also concurred, “Good for you, Aso-san, for calling it the ‘Wuhan virus’!”
In a statement issued on May 8, 2015, the WHO said that the name “Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV),” which was the moniker given to an infectious disease that broke out that year, “triggered a reaction against a specific regional and ethnic community and invited unfair trade barriers and the unnecessary culling of livestock.” The WHO announced guidelines that same month which provided that the name of a place, person, animal, food product, or a specific culture or industry or profession shall not be used in the names of infectious diseases. On Feb. 11, the WHO named the pneumonia caused by the new type of coronavirus “COVID-19.”