Racism has reared its ugly head in public discourse about the coronavirus, says
Rotorua Lakes councillor Fisher Wang.
A Rotorua councillor says he has been subjected to racism in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Fisher Wang says he has been approached in the supermarket twice and received three racist messages through Facebook.
"There have been a few people mention that we should send all the Chinese back to where they came from."
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His comments come as the Lakes District Health Board has confirmed a fourth person has been tested in Rotorua for the deadly disease.
Three people from a tour group were tested on Sunday and a fourth followed on Monday. None were found to have symptoms of infection and their tests were taken for processing before the patients were discharged.
Wang, who also dealt with racist comments during last year's election campaign, said he was approached in the supermarket by a member of the public who asked what was being done to keep the city safe from the coronavirus.
"I've had a person come up to me and say, 'why aren't we doing more? Why aren't we sending them back so it decreases the risk?'"
The person did not specify who "them" was, Wang said, but he assumed it was about Chinese tourists.
Wang's family immigrated from Taiwan more than two decades ago and he was born in Rotorua.
The 19-year-old councillor was subject to racial slurs during his campaigning last year. Someone in a car drove past and yelled: "We're not voting for ******* Chinamen".
He had also seen countless racist comments about the coronavirus on social media; comments on news stories and people sharing their views on their personal pages.
Wang said Rotorua was a multicultural melting pot but some people were still being judged based on what they looked like.
He said there was a heightened fear around the virus which had proven an extra motive for racism.
"Everyone's bound to be a bit frightened but that's no excuse to be racist.
"It's times like these that the community should come together, work on prevention and fight the virus, not the people."
Despite being born in Rotorua, he has had a lifetime of racist comments and people "tell me to go back to where I came from".
He had not had any comments directed to him specifically about the outbreak but rather they were said to him and directed at others.
"Which is just as bad," he said.
"Some of them think it's a kind of joke, but it's not a joke. It is really offensive."
A Rotorua resident of Chinese descent, who didn't want to be named, said although he had not had any hostility since the outbreak, it was something he could see happening more often.
"You shouldn't be racist in any situation," he said.
He said the outbreak was "like a trigger" to racism as people responded out of fear.
Rotorua Multicultural Committee president Margriet Theron said she had seen racist comments on a social media post in response to the virus and said it was "terrible".
"It became terribly racist, about closing the borders, sending people back," she said.
"It's just unacceptable ... someone who looks Chinese may well be a third-generation New Zealander."
"People are over-reacting," she said.
The four people taken to Rotorua Hospital for testing of the virus had no symptoms and were discharged after tests were sent away.
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and trouble breathing. They can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Local public health services had been working closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure appropriate protocols were followed and any risk to the public was managed appropriately, the statement said.
Lakes District Health Board chief executive Nick Saville-Wood said health board staff were aware of the need to be vigilant for signs and symptoms of people who might present to the emergency departments with flu-like symptoms.
He said health board staff were working closely with Toi Te Ora Public Health to keep health professionals across the Lakes district informed of the risk.
A health board spokesperson said that, given public concern about coronavirus, "patients are likely to attend the emergency department if they feel the need to be checked to make sure they do not have the illness."
"Lakes DHB confirms it is seeing patients who have presented in the Emergency Department. They have been seen by clinicians, discussed with the Medical Officer of Health, cleared and discharged.
"There are currently no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in New Zealand."