Hackney’s Chinese community association says members are coming to them with reports of racism and xenophobia since the coronavirus outbreak last month.

Civil rights campaigner Jabez Lam told the Gazette about members of the Hackney Chinese Community Services being made to feel uncomfortable and targeted at restaurants, in the supermarket and on the tube. He said children have even been teased about having the virus at school.

Members have reported being asked if they washed their hands by strangers and started noticing people deliberately walking away from them. One couple, he was told, were ushered to the corner of an empty restaurant while their waiter kept a noticeable distance during service.

Jabez told the Gazette: "At the time when SARS was happening in 2003 I was working in an organisation dealing with racism to Chinese people and I can't recall a single case reported to me at the time."

He said there are many similarities between the SARS virus and the new coronavirus. Virologists say they are close relatives and both outbreaks originated in China.

Jabez added: "The atmosphere today has changed from international cooperation to antagonism. People have started to blame victims [and] think of them as a threat."

Hackney's community safety chief Cllr Caroline Selman said: "Hackney is no place for hate, and discrimination against members for our Chinese community as a result of the corona virus outbreak will not be accepted in our borough.

"As long-time supporters of Hackney Chinese Community Services, the council and the police's hate crime officer have met with the group to discuss their concerns, and will do everything we can to make sure that this key part of Hackney's diverse community is offered the support they need."

A Met spokesperson confirmed "a small number of verbal Public Order Offences" have been reported by victims from Chinese and East Asian communities in Hackney to police.

They encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of a hate crime to call police on 101 or by tweeting @MetCC.

Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.