A student from Singapore studying in the UK says he was attacked by racists, with one saying: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
Jonathan Mok wrote on Facebook that he was set upon by a group of four or five men and a woman as he walked along Oxford Street in London on Monday February 24.
Violence erupted after the group passed Mr Mok, a 23-year-old student who has been living in the British capital for two years, and one made a remark about coronavirus.
As Mr Mok turned to face them, the man said: “Don’t you dare look at me”, before launching an attack.
Writing on Facebook, Mr Mok said: “All of a sudden, the first punch was swung at my face and took me by surprise. When I was still shocked by the first hit, the guy delivered the second sucker punch.
“By then, a few passers-by had stopped and one of them tried to reason with them that four on one was not fair.
“The attacker’s friend tried to swing a kick at me as I was explaining to the passer-by that I hadn’t done anything at all.
“I tried to react in self-defence but couldn’t do anything substantial because I was still recovering from a broken finger in my master hand.
“The guy who tried to kick me then said, ‘I don’t want your coronavirus in my country’, before swinging another sucker punch at me, which resulted in my face exploding with blood (from my nose), where the blood was splattered all across the pavement.”
The student said he was told he had suffered fractures in his face and may need surgery.
He added: “Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred – and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse.”
A handful of racist attacks in the UK apparently spurred by the outbreak of the disease have attracted publicity in recent weeks.
Tax consultant Pawat Silawattakun, 24, told the Observer that he was left with a broken nose when he was punched in the face and robbed in Fulham, west London by teenagers who shouted “coronavirus”.
Trainee lawyer Meera Solanki, 29, was punched unconscious after stepping in to defend her friend from a group of men hurling racist abuse about the disease in a Birmingham bar.
Britain's National Police Chiefs’ Council has said levels of hate crime have remained steady in recent weeks and there is no obvious rise linked to coronavirus.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Police are investigating a racially aggravated assault in Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road station at around 9.15pm on Monday, February 24.
“The victim – a 23-year-old man – was punched and sustained facial injuries.
“Enquiries continue to identify the suspects; including an assessment of available CCTV.”