News - February 7, 2020

‘The coronavirus is not a joke’

The coronavirus has been dominating headlines for weeks. Chinese WUR-students Jioyou Liu (23) and Tianhe Bai (25) reflect on the outbreak. ‘The government built a hospital for coronavirus patients in less than ten days. It takes more time to order a mask in Europe.’


Jioyou Liu (23) and Tianhe Bai (25) both follow the Masters in Food Technology. Liu is from Wuhan, the city known for the outbreak of the coronavirus; Bai is from Zhengzhou, the capital city of a neighbouring province. Both are regularly in touch with friends and family back home.

Jioyou Liu (23)
Jioyou Liu (23)

What is the situation like in Wuhan and Zhengzhou?
Liu: ‘Wuhan is a megacity with 13 million inhabitants, so normally it is very lively and vibrant. Especially during Chinese New Year. Now, the situation is different: everybody stays home as much as possible because people are afraid of the virus. People only go out for grocery shopping and then return home and stay inside. My family is staying at home for several days. I am regularly in contact with my family in Wuhan.’

Bai: ‘The situation is a bit better in Zhengzhou, but of course people are careful. My relatives wear masks when they go outside and pay extra attention to hygiene. I call my family every week. The only difference now is that we spend a couple of minutes talking about the coronavirus every call.’

Liu: ‘In the beginning, I was worried, but my family tells me that they have enough food and that they are all fine. They are very optimistic: when I wanted to call my mom on Sunday, she even told me not to disturb because she was watching tennis. So I think they are doing alright.’

How do you feel the outbreak is being handled?
Liu: ‘I am confident that we will beat this disease. The government built a hospital for coronavirus patients in less than ten days. It takes more time to order a mask in Europe. Also, it is important to pay respect to the heroes that fight the disease: the doctors and the nurses. One of my elementary school friends is a nurse. She married one month ago, but she now is working fulltime to fight the disease. I have a lot of respect for them.’

In Dutch media, there were reports of racist coronavirus-related incidents. Did you experience this?
Liu: ‘In this era, rumour and discrimination spread faster than a virus. A Danish newspaper had a cartoon of the Chinese flag, but they replaced the stars on the flag with the virus.* That is insulting. Besides, you should not make jokes about the disease.’

Tianhe Bai (25)
Tianhe Bai (25)

Bai: ‘I agree. The disease is not a joke. But I did not experience coronavirus-related racism in Wageningen.’

Liu: ‘It is normal to be afraid of disease, especially if itcan be fatal. But it is important to be afraid of the virus; not of the people.’

* The cartoon Liu mentions was recently posted in Facebook group Wageningen Student Plaza accompanied with racist remarks. The post has been deleted.