The Chinese community in Majorca is paying a high price for the coronavirus as fear gives way to discrimination.
“The coronavirus is the enemy, not the Chinese,” said the Head of Business at the Chinese Embassy in Spain, Yao Fei.
There are around 5,378 Chinese residents in Majorca and at least 3,500 of them live in Palma.
"Those who have just come here from China stay at home and don’t go out for about two weeks as a precaution," explains restaurateur Wetming Ye.
The Chinese Association of the Balearic Islands, or Achinib has called for calm.
”Our community is alarmed and it is logical because we are in a time of crisis and the funny thing is that there is more paranoia amongst the Chinese themselves than anywhere else,” says Fang Ji.
“There were a lot of people at the New Year's party, but less Chinese than on other occasions. Nobody knows why, but it could be that they don’t want to relate to each other,” said Chinese Community Advisor, Luis Felipe Lorenzo.
Most people in Majorca continue to go to Chinese restaurants and shops as usual, but there has been a noticeable decrease in clientele in some places.
"Many people believe that the raw products are brought from China but they are local, so there is a lot of ignorance and we are selling a little less, but it’s barely noticeable in Palma and we are not worried,” claims a supermarket worker.
The Shi Wei Xian restaurant in Pere Garau, says the coronavirus hasn’t made any difference to trade.
"A lot of people came over the weekend," Chen says from the other side of the bar, “but it has not been like this everywhere, there has been a certain downturn, explains businessman Toni Yoh. "I don't know if because of fear or worry, especially in restaurants because they serve food.”
Complaints for discrimination
Toni Yoh, who’s lived in Majorca for about fifty years says "I have never experienced racist situations.”
But the Chinese Association of the Balearic Islands says they’ve recently received complaints of discrimination at schools.
"Some people are accused of having the Chinese virus and then separated from the rest of the class and what makes me angry are the parents who tell their children not to play with Chinese kids," explains Fang Ji, ”you can't teach children things like that.”
Aina Picó, who’s Director of the Jafudà Cresques school in the heart of Pere Garau, says there have never been any problems there.
"We organised activities for Chinese New Year because students from the neighbourhood are part of it, and we have not detected any problems.”
Fang Ji points out that “today it is China but this could happen in any country, including Spain and in moments of crisis like this, support and trust is needed more than ever. This epidemic is not anyone's fault.”
Misinformation and exaggeration often plays a huge role at times like this, but the coronavirus has a mortality rate of between 2% and 3%, which is very low.
According to experts, the biggest problem is its high mutability which could make it difficult to find a vaccine or an antiviral.
Meanwhile, people who have relatives in infected areas in China say extreme measures have been put in place to try to prevent the virus from spreading.
"My family is from Qitai on the other side of Wuhan and they say there are strong controls in place and they can't leave home," explains Restaurateur Wetming Ye. “My brother, who lives in Spain, visited Qitai and he said that the roads were cut and guarded and to get out you have to have a certificate and fever checks, so everything possible is being done to contain the disease."