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Toronto LifeLabs location comes under fire for xenophobic sign

A Toronto location of the Canadian lab service LifeLabs has been forced to remove a sign with xenophobic text that refers to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus."

Earler this week, a patient of the LifeLabs in McCowan Plaza at Hwy 7 took a photo of a sign on the clinic's door. 

The sign, dated Jan. 23, 2020, prompts patients to check themselves for signs of respiratory illness. It also asks patients if they have been exposed to Coronavirus, "also known as Wuhan Virus." 

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A sign at the LifeLabs location on Highway 7 refers to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus." 

The patient, who did not want to be named in this article for privacy reasons, immediately contacted LifeLabs to point out the stigmatizing connotations of the sign. The photo has also been shared on social media by third parties.

"We regret that this outdated posted was displayed at our location," said LifeLabs to blogTO. 

"The poster pictured was created in January 2020 and at that time was consistent with how the virus was commonly discussed by the media." 

LifeLabs referenced a Global News article on Jan. 26, 2020, and a news release from the Ontario government from Jan. 25,2020, which referred to COVID-19 as "Wuhan coronavirus" and "Wuhan novel coronavirus", respectively.

"Once the World Health Organization announced the 'COVID-19'  naming convention on February 11, 2020, LifeLabs updated the poster to reflect the new name," said LifeLabs.

It's not confirmed whether the same sign is still currently being used at more than 380 other LifeLabs locations across B.C., Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

Despite some examples of inappropriate naming conventions early on in 2020, the 'Wuhan virus' designation—which, one year after its proliferation, has no place in the lexicon of professional healthcare services or, decidedly, anywhere else—is nowhere to be found in official medical resources.

The World Health Organization has been issuing statements about the coronavirus outbreak since early January, referring to COVID-19 as the novel coronavirus, the first case of which was identified in Wuhan, China. 

None of WHO's news releases have ever referred to the respiratory disease as the Wuhan Virus prior to its official designation as Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.

Nor has the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This incident follows nearly a year of racial violence against the Chinese community and people of Asian descent Canada-wide and a disproportionately hit Chinese restaurant industry due to misinformation about the global pandemic. 

Early 2020, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam urged Canadians to avoid stigmatising language, specifically in relation to Chinese and other East Asian communities during COVID-19.

LifeLabs—which has been performing laboratory tests over 50 years—says it will be doing a review of all their locations to ensure the updated poster is being displayed.

Photos by

Chelsea Shim

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