“WE believe that the Covid-19 pandemic is a humanitarian disaster on a global level that does not discriminate in its devastation”. Those are the words of Basingstoke Multicultural Forum (BMF) which has responded to the row which erupted after the town’s deputy mayor said it was “fair” to refer to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”.

As previously reported in the Gazette, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt tried to justify liking a Tweet by American president Donald Trump, in which he described Covid-19 as “a very bad gift from China”.

Cllr Cubitt told the Gazette: “I do believe it [Covid-19] originated from China. I don’t see it as being offensive, I see it as being factual.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against using terms that link the virus to China to avoid stigmatisation.

Cllr Cubitt said: “We called the Spanish flu Spanish. I think it’s fair to call it the Chinese virus.”

Her comments have been labelled “outrageous” by leader of the Basingstoke party Cllr Andrew McCormick. However, council leader Ken Rhatigan and Basingstoke MP Maria Miller have defended Cllr Cubitt.

Now, BMF, which works to create inclusion, social cohesion and respect for diversity amongst the different communities in the town, has responded to her comments.

It said: “Our core mandate at the BMF is to build bridges that bring communities together for a stronger, inclusive and more cohesive Basingstoke.

“We at the BMF do not support any divisive, discriminatory views, words or actions. We believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is a humanitarian disaster on a global level that does not discriminate in its devastation. This is a time for us to be more cohesive and united as a society in battling this threat, while extending all support to the weak, the under-privileged, the marginalised and the vulnerable sections of our society.”

It pointed out that BMF is not a political organisation, adding: “We are keenly aware of the global movements from the US and other countries and are against any form of divisiveness. We extend our support to all initiatives that strive towards equality, dignity and opportunity for all, in a fair society governed by the Rule of Law.

“It is important to state that the BMF are not a political organisation and we value the encouragement and relationship with our local government and its duly elected and appointed officers that support our cause, including our Deputy Mayor who was a chief guest at our last Annual General Meeting.”