In an unusual variety of #Spon content, Nigel Dixon, a British Mr Bean impersonator, is reportedly being paid by the government of China to create bizarre clips praising the response of Wuhan in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Apparently, Nigel, under his performance name Mr Pea, is “raising the spirits” of local residents affected by the quarantine.
Describing the response of China to the ongoing outbreak as “nothing short of being incredible”, the UK-born impersonator says he is using his platform to spread joy through his “meaningful, funny” videos. After arriving in Wuhan in January for tourism purposes, Mr Pea decided to stay in Wuhan after the outbreak as he claims “To leave now would make me feel like I’m running away and turning my back on China. I would then be leaving a large number of people who need my help and care right now.”
The video campaign is being sponsored by Xinhua News Agency, an official Chinese state-run media agency, prompting some to question if the statements are Mr Pea’s own thoughts or being pushed on him by the agency. YouTube has even taken care to label the videos as sponsored at least in part by the Chinese government.
Some of the videos do seem somewhat suspiciously positive. “Once people were waiting for hospital beds, now beds are waiting for people,” Mr Pea can be heard saying in one video. “It sickens me to hear of other countries blaming China, but for what? We are now hearing of cases where people around the world have contracted their virus with no obvious connections to China.”
The coronavirus was officially declared by the World Health Organization a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11. The virus has spread from its origin at a market in Wuhan across the globe, with current stats as of writing putting the total number of confirmed cases at over 180,000.