Two teenage girls have been arrested for an alleged racist attack on several Chinese people wearing face masks.
The pair – aged 14 and 15 years old – have been accused of assaulting and shouting abuse at four people in central Southampton, police have said.
The victims, three Chinese men and one woman, were all aged in their early 20s and did not suffer any lasting physical injuries.
They are believed to have been wearing medical face masks at the time of the alleged assault on 17 March in Vincent’s Walk, in the city centre.
Two teenage girls have been arrested on suspicion of affray, police said.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China but quickly spread to other countries in the world, various cases of racially-aggravated abuse against people of Chinese or East Asian descent have been reported in connection with the pandemic.
A young Singaporean student has claimed he was punched and kicked in central London by people who had shouted “coronavirus” at him.
A poll last month found that 14 per cent of Britons would “avoid contact with people of Chinese origin and appearance” because of the virus.
Speaking about the alleged incident in Southampton, a Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said: ”Any crime perpetuated through ignorance, prejudice or hate is unacceptable.”
“We are working with our partners and the local Chinese communities and we would encourage everyone to report incidents to us either by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.”
Anyone who has information that might help the investigation into this incident should call 101 and quote 44200101024.
Additional reporting by Press Association