Coronavirus: People of Asian descent facing discrimination in SA

An EWN journalist felt this discrimination first-hand in Sandton.

© jarun011/

JOHANNESBURG – The spread of the coronavirus globally has fired up fears that people could contract the virus in South Africa. There have also been myths around how the virus spreads, with increasing stereotypes around Asian people carrying the virus.

There have been no confirmed cases in the country, but fear and anxiety spread as the Covid-19 virus continues to infect people globally. More than 3,000 people have died since the outbreak last year.

EWN’s multimedia producer, Abigail Javier, was recently discriminated against at a Gautrain station because she is of Filipino descent.

In a Facebook post, she wrote: “When I was rushing back to the Gautrain from work. I was walking down West Street. It was raining, it’s cold. I coughed softly as I had a slight irritation in my throat and suddenly a lady sitting on a bench angrily shouts at me, saying that I shouldn’t cough here. That I should go back to my country. That I must voetsek…”.

Javier said she told the woman that she’s not even from China.

“[It] angered her even more. She started making a scene, [repeatedly telling] me to voetsek and other things that I didn’t hear as I started walking away,” she continued in her post.

The virus’s origins were traced back to Wuhan, China.

Javier continued: "Firstly, I’m not Chinese. I’m South African Filipino. And even if I was Chinese, why does that matter? Why do YOU assume I have the virus because of the way I look? Ever since this coronavirus outbreak started, I’ve been wary of my interactions with people. Because of all the discrimination happening around the world."