A female student from Sheffield University has shared a disturbing incident in yet another unprovoked attack against Asians amid the growing panic over the novel coronavirus.
The unnamed postgraduate student was reportedly walking up West Street by herself around 1 p.m. on Thursday when she was targeted by an unknown group. According to the victim, the group allegedly attacked her verbally and physically for wearing a protective face mask.
Media outlets in China and Hong Kong have been actively promoting the use of face masks to help citizens protect themselves from the illness.
The woman decided not to file charges but shared the incident with the Sheffield Chinese Community Centre, The Tab reports.
“Yesterday there was an incident on West Street when a student was walking down the street wearing a mask and was assaulted,” Sarah Ng, a staff member at the center, was quoted as saying.
“They were asking why she was wearing a mask and if she has a problem. She didn’t say anything because it was quite scary for her.”
Ng explained that the assault is an indication of the attackers’ lack of cultural understanding.
“It was a one-off incident but I’m thinking we need to put out a balanced message of understanding about why Chinese students are wearing masks,” Ng noted.
“The student is fine. She didn’t want to press charges. She understands now it was because the public doesn’t understand the situation,” Ng said.
“Over the last few years the city has been safe. Sheffield, as a city, has a very good understanding about minority groups and local populations living in harmony.”
As of this writing, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or Wuhan coronavirus) has now spread to 27 countries and territories worldwide, with 17,488 confirmed cases, 362 deaths, and 512 recoveries.
The U.K. has confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus, which included a student from the University of York.
Students at Sheffield University, where around 8,000 Chinese nationals are studying, who returned from Wuhan in the last two weeks were advised to quarantine themselves.
Some of the students returned to China last weekend to join their families for Lunar New Year celebrations.
The university administration sent an email that students showing symptoms of the respiratory virus should stay isolated for 14 days and call the National Health Service at 111.