An Auckland doctor says she has been yelled at to "go back to China" - even though she's never been there and was born in New Zealand.

Dr Linda Lum blew her nose while on a bus this week after breathing in dust by a busy road.

"An elderly gentleman 4m away facing away on the other side of the bus shouted at me, 'Go back home to China [or] else we are all going to die'," she told the Herald.

Medical staff in protective outfits wait at the entrance of a clinic for fever patients and patients from Wuhan in Fuyang in central China's Anhui Province. Photo / AP
Medical staff in protective outfits wait at the entrance of a clinic for fever patients and patients from Wuhan in Fuyang in central China's Anhui Province. Photo / AP

"As a doctor I know absolutely proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid contagion.
Even if I was sick he was at no risk."

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Neither the driver nor the other two passengers on the bus said anything.

It wasn't the first time Lum had heard such a comment, so she chose to ignore the man - assuming it was "plain ignorance".

But when he got off at Auckland City Hospital bus stop on crutches, she thought, "You will have a better than 30 per cent chance your doctor is going to be Asian, so if they start to sniff what will you do then - walk out?"

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Lum spoke the next day to a group of around 60 elderly Chinese at their club rooms in Mangere, on behalf the Auckland Chinese Medical Association.

"The main topic was coronavirus and the aim was to educate them, dispel some myths and teach them about infection control so as to protect themselves, their family and the general public," she said.

"Certainly there was much concern in the audience about the situation as the elderly have a higher chance of catching, falling ill and suffering complications from any infectious disease."

On Friday Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said there were "legitimate, and understandable, public health concerns" and it was important to follow the instructions and advice from the Ministry of Health and Public Health Officers.

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"It is also important to be aware of obligations under the Human Rights Act, which prohibit discrimination in a number of circumstances and on a wide variety of grounds. These include ethnicity, national origins and having a physical illness and/or organisms in the body capable of causing illness."

Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner. Photo / File
Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner. Photo / File

There were some exceptions to the general rules, such as if there was an unreasonable risk of infecting others with an illness and steps couldn't be taken to reduce the risk, Foon said.

"We ask all New Zealanders to remain calm and follow instructions from the Ministry of Health and Public Health Officers.

"Please be kind, resist judging, and typecasting people based on their ethnicity, nationality or physical appearance. Victims of the types of abuse that are being reported are as equally worried about their health as other members of the community."

Anyone who believed they had been discriminated against in breach of the Human Rights Act could make a complaint to the commission, Foon said.