China instructs public not to touch foreigners after first monkeypox case

People in China have been warned not to engage in "skin-to-skin contact with foreigners" after the country's first case of monkeypox was confirmed.

The person who has contracted the viral disease had recently arrived from overseas and is now in quarantine.

Issuing advice on his Weibo social media account, Wu Zunyou, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention's chief epidemiologist, wrote: "To prevent possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners."

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He went on to stress that "skin-to-skin contact" should also be avoided with anybody who has been abroad during the past three weeks, along with all "strangers".

Wu added that he believes stringent border controls have helped combat the threat of monkeypox in his country but, for some who read and commented on his post, it was felt his words might lead to the same kind of xenophobia that led to Asian people being attacked and blamed for the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many also reasoned that China is home to many long-time foreign residents, who have not left the country in recent years due to the strict Covid restrictions.

One asked: "Does he know that many foreigners have been staying in China for years?"

Another pondered: "Did someone jump and scream discrimination?"

People entering China are still required to normally undergo between one and two weeks of isolation with health officials confirming that the monkeypox patient was "immediately isolated" on arrival into the city of Chongqing.

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They also added that: "There are no traces of social transmission, and the risk of transmission is low."

Painful skin lesions and flu-like symptoms are caused by monkeypox which was, traditionally, thought to be spread following direct contact with body fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets or even shared bedding.

But, with this current outbreak, which saw its first cluster of cases in the UK four months ago, there is evidence that suggests it has been passed on through sexual transmission.

A global health emergency was announced by the World Health Organisation in July after the virus had been reported in dozens of countries where it had never been previously found.

It was reported earlier this month that, in total, there had been 16 deaths from 50,000 worldwide cases during this outbreak.

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