Filipinos scolded the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Monday for a social media post in which it thanked the Chinese coronavirus, responsible for killing thousands of people globally. The DOTr has since been forced to take down the post and issue an apology.
The agency reportedly published a video by Polish musician Riya Sokol expressing gratitude for the novel coronavirus for many alleged blessings to come from the pandemic.
“Thank you [Chinese] Coronavirus. Thank you for shaking us and showing us we’re dependent on something much bigger than we think,” Sokol says in the video. “Thank you for stopping the transport, the earth was begging us to look at the pollution for a very long time.”
“Thank you for all the fear. It has been a global disease for years, but not many of us wanted to face it, and now we have to face it and learn how to embrace it with love and the support of our community,” Sokol says. “Thank you for this reevaluation of our lives.”
On social media Monday, Filipinos excoriated the DOTr for the post, published amid thousands of deaths around the world at the hands of the virus. One Twitter user wrote, “What a toxic optimism you have there DOTr. Do not just go thanking a virus that slaughters hundreds or thousands of people. Respect the ones who died by that virus.”
Responding to the backlash, the DOTr removed the post and issued an apology late Monday. In its apology, the DOTr defended its actions, claiming the message was “meant to provide an enlightening and awakening narrative into this pandemic”:
The poem and video has gone viral because it presents a different perspective, one which gives humanity a reflective pause and appreciate what really matters in our lives. We acknowledge that not all of our audience appreciate the underlying message of the poem and video, and we understand that some view it as an insensitive act. For that, we sincerely apologize.
The post seemed especially insensitive given the country’s current struggle to defend itself from the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. Overwhelmed, health workers have asked the federal government for assistance to treat an increasing number of victims, citing a shortage of medical supplies and adequate space. In response, the national government recently designated two major hospitals as official treatment facilities.
Last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon, where the capital Manila is located, on a quarantine lockdown. On Tuesday, the Philippine congress granted Duterte emergency powers in the national effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country.
At press time Tuesday, the Philippines had confirmed 552 infections and 35 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.