Anyone can be infected with the novel coronavirus. Unreasonable defamation and discrimination against those infected, as well as the people around them and such entities as their schools, must be eliminated.
A high school in Matsue where a group of soccer club members were infected with the virus was inundated with disparaging calls, including one saying, “Shut the school down.” Photographs of the students were uploaded on the internet and a message was posted, which said, “[They] are spreading the coronavirus.”
Faced with this criticism, some students are said to be experiencing physical and mental problems, with one reportedly saying, “I can’t sleep.” The criticism may have been caused by fears about infection, but it must be called an overreaction.
At Tenri University in Nara Prefecture, where more than 50 rugby club members were confirmed to have been infected with the virus, students who were not connected to the case were rejected as trainee teachers by junior high and high schools. Others were asked by their employers to refrain from working at their part-time jobs.
It was only natural for the mayor of Tenri, which is home to the university, to call for a calm response, saying, “This is unfair discrimination that leads to the division of society.” In the history of infectious diseases, people with conditions like leprosy and AIDS have been exposed to discrimination and prejudice. Such mistakes must not be repeated.
According to an online survey conducted by the National Center for Child Health and Development in June and July, 30% of the respondents aged 7 to 17 said they wanted to keep it a secret if they or their families were infected with the virus. There seemed to be an underlying fear that they could be blamed for the infection.
If this trend intensifies, it may lead to such problems as public health centers being unable to track the routes of infection. This could contribute to the spread of infections.
The total accumulated number of infections in the nation has exceeded 60,000. No matter how much preventive measures are implemented, it is difficult to prevent infection completely. People should be aware that words blaming infected people could also be thrown back at them if they are infected.
Disseminating malicious statements and false information on the internet could lead to charges of defamation.
The Tokyo District Court ordered a former city assembly member to pay ¥330,000 in damages to a woman whom he falsely accused in messages on the internet. He falsely said the woman was in a car driven by a man who was arrested for malicious driving on the Joban Expressway. The former assembly member paid a high price, also resigning from his post. People should be warned against making thoughtless comments.
The municipal government of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, plans to soon enact an ordinance to call on citizens not to defame people infected with the coronavirus and their families. The city aims to disperse correct knowledge about the virus and eliminate discrimination. They reportedly will offer advice to victims as well.
Some municipalities are monitoring the internet to see if there are any messages that attack infected people or medical workers. Every possible measure must be taken to prevent people from being hurt by thoughtless words.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 30, 2020.