COVID-19: NHS staff fall victim to anti-Chinese hate crimes - amid fears violence will rise when lockdown ends

·3-min read

Police chiefs have warned they will "respond robustly" to anti-Chinese hate crimes amid concerns there could be a surge in offences once lockdown ends.

The COVID-19 Anti-Racism Group (CARG) has told Sky News it is witnessing worrying levels of hate speech online linked to the pandemic - and it fears this will turn into violence when coronavirus restrictions are eased.

It comes after an NHS nurse working in the East Midlands revealed he was shouted at and called a "f****** Chinese c***" by a patient last weekend.

Aldarico Jr Velasco, who is from the Philippines and works for University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, said his colleagues were "quick to defend and rally behind" him "but man, it was sad".

The trust, which has 375 Filipino members of staff, said it was "saddened" by the "appalling" incident, and added: "It comes as no shock as our colleagues regularly report similar instances. This simply has to change.

"We have a strict policy against this type of behaviour, including the option to refuse treatment, and we will continue to work hard and do all we can to eradicate it from our hospitals and our communities.

"The recent incident Aldarico raises only strengthens our resolve to work even harder."

NHS rules allow trusts to refuse to treat non-critical patients who are verbally aggressive or physically violent towards staff. These protections were extended last year to include any harassment, bullying or discrimination, including homophobic, sexist or racist remarks.

A survey by Nursing in Practice in October found more than a quarter of nurses they spoke to had witnessed racist behaviour at work, with Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers reporting a worsening situation because of COVID-19.

One Chinese health worker told the survey: "Patients and people in general say that COVID-19 originated from China and that being of Chinese descent is culpable for the pandemic."

Actor and director David Tse, who helped form CARG in the wake of the pandemic, told Sky News he is now concerned there will be another spike in anti-Chinese hate crimes after a sharp rise in offences last year.

He said police had told CARG that offences have dropped recently, but he fears the problem is being masked by lockdown.

"It's probably indicative of the fact we've been in lockdown, rather than everyone's suddenly forgiven the Chinese and don't blame us," Mr Tse said.

"On social media, we're still getting a lot of hate speech."

Mr Tse said he had recently received a message from a "white British man" talking about receiving the "Chinese vaccine" who then "suddenly moves from sounding British to sounding Chinese in a cod Chinese accent".

He added: "That's the level of continued online racism that's going on.

"Thank god Trump has gone but obviously all this 'China Virus', 'Kung Flu' kind of nonsense has been fuelling this kind of quite hysterical Sinophobia.

"There are still people, including politicians, who blame China for the pandemic.

"With the encouragement of hate speech and racism against the Chinese, as soon as lockdown ends, it translates to us getting bashed."

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said it is monitoring the situation and "people should be able to live their lives free of harassment and fear".

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the NPCC's lead for hate crime, told Sky News: "Last year we detected a rise in the number of victims who identified their ethnicity as Chinese or Southeast Asian and where we were able to detect a link to COVID-19 in the offending behaviour.

"This increase is likely to have been fuelled by the unacceptable narratives that blamed those communities for the pandemic outbreak.

"I am pleased to note that since December 2020, we haven't seen such increases in victimisation. We will continue to monitor the situation and will respond robustly should we detect any increases.

"People should be able to live their lives free of harassment and fear. Targeting someone because of their race or other characteristic is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated."