A patient at Auckland City Hospital was overheard requesting to be treated by a non-Asian doctor at its emergency department in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
A woman who heard the conversation said the incident happened on Tuesday morning as the patient was being admitted and that she was "utterly shocked".
"I'm not sure if I would describe this as blatant racism, but there's definitely a lot of total ignorance out there with regards to this virus," said the woman, who did not want to be named.
An Auckland District Health Board spokeswoman said it was not aware of the incident and that it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on hearsay.
However, she said the public can be assured that hospitals were well placed to manage coronavirus should they happen.
"The public can be assured that robust processes are in place in our hospital to care for any patients with coronavirus while protecting patients, staff, whanau and visitors."
Auckland and three other DHBs, Northland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau, have been monitoring the developing situation of coronavirus since December.
A spokeswoman for the DHBs said they were well placed to manage any cases that may be confirmed.
"Throughout the region we care for people with infectious diseases that spread in the same way as coronavirus each year. Our teams have well-established protocols for managing any cases of infectious disease caused by droplet or airborne spread."
The processes were tested last week when a patient with a suspected case of coronavirus was taken to Auckland City Hospital, which turned out to be negative.
"But it is expected there will be a confirmed case of this coronavirus somewhere in New Zealand before long," she said.
"This is a time where many people in our communities will be anxious and uncertain."
A Northern Region Health Coordination Centre has been activated to support regional response, and was working closely with the Ministry of Health, Public Health, Primary Care, St John and the wider health social sector.
China consul-general in New Zealand Ruan Ping said hatred and ignorance were "more calamitous" then the virus.
"New Zealand people are proud of the nation's diversity of ethnicities and cultures. The Chinese community has become an integral and important part of the New Zealand family.
"Compared with the virus itself, ignorance, hatred and discrimination are even more calamitous and should not be tolerated in any part of the world."
Ruan said he hoped Chinese and New Zealand could stand together "in the spirit of solidarity and unison" in the fight against coronavirus.
Auckland Howick Ward councillor Paul Young, who also sits on the Counties Manukau DHB, said it was disappointing to see the rise of racism as a result of the virus.
"We are all trying our best to fight this virus regardless of race, so any form of racism is disappointing and has no place in this fight.
"From the briefings I have received from the DHBs, I am confident that New Zealand is well equipped and ready to handle any coronavirus cases."
Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China, in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia have all reported new infections on Tuesday that are locally transmitted and not imported from China.
In China, cities are being shut down and millions have been ordered to stay indoors after nearly 500 have already died from the virus and 24,000 infected.