The owner of a Chinese takeaway owner was “spat at” in the face by a teenage boy who demanded to know if he “had coronavirus”, in an incident police are treating as racially aggravated.
The attack took place in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, on 12 March. Hertfordshire police confirmed the incident was recorded as a racially aggravated common assault and told The Independent enquiries are continuing.
Sharon So, daughter of the takeaway’s owner, told The Independent the boy who carried out the attack was in a group with three other boys, one of whom was a regular customer.
Her father initially served the regular customer, who exited the shop after receiving his order to join the other three boys “loitering” outside.
Then one of the other boys entered the shop and began recording her father on his phone and demanding to know if he was infected with the virus.
“He shoved his phone in my dad’s face and started shouting: ‘Do you have coronavirus? Do you have coronavirus?’
“My father ignored him at first and went into the kitchen, but the boy was still yelling at the front. So he went back out to tell him to leave, and the boy leaned over the counter, spat in my dad’s face, and ran off with the others,” Ms So said.
“We are worried for my father’s health. What if that boy had the virus? He spat in my dad’s face – my dad could easily be infected. We are monitoring him for now."
Ms So’s parents migrated to the UK when they were young and have owned their takeaway in Hertfordshire for over 20 years. Since fears over the outbreak began rising in early February, their business has dropped by more than half.
"They were already worried about business, and now they have to worry about this," added Ms So. "It's just not right."
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: “Hertfordshire Constabulary takes all reports of this nature seriously and we will do everything we can to investigate the circumstances around such incidents.
“If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime, please report it to us. We have specialist hate crime officers who can offer advice and support to victims.”
A slew of coronavirus-related racist attacks have been launched at Chinese and East Asian people in recent months, fuelled by the emergence of the virus in China last December.
In early March, a Singaporean student was attacked and beaten up on Oxford Street by a group of teenagers who told him he didn’t “want your coronavirus in my country”.
Jonathan Mok, 23, was left with a blackened eye and several fractures to his face. Two teenagers were arrested in connection with the incident on 6 March.
The outbreak has infected over 174,000 people worldwide, including 1,543 in the UK.