Malaysian Chinese Kiwi woman says people avoid her over coronavirus fears

A Malaysian Chinese Kiwi woman says people are avoiding her on the street over coronavirus fears. 

The woman, who wished to stay anonymous, told The Project racism and xenophobia is spreading with the virus. 

"Recently on a work trip to Auckland I wore a mask and people crossed the road when I coughed.

"There was all this staring, people leaning away, a bit of whispering and it wasn't nice."

She says the virus is being used as an excuse for people to exercise their racist attitudes. 

"Taika Waititi put it best when he said you don't have to be a full-on racist, you can be a tiny bit racist and that's enough,

"Coronavirus is just that - it's an excuse for covert racism to become overt racism and it's simply not okay," she said. 

Race Commissioner Meng Foon agrees, saying Kiwis need to try harder.

"My appeal to my fellow New Zealanders is to be kind," he said on Thursday.

"Don't let coronavirus bring out your racism, your anxieties, and your unkindness to our communities."

The coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, originated in the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province late last year. 

It's thought the disease spread from animals to humans in a live food market. 

Since the virus broke out it has spread to more than 25 countries, but just two people outside of China have died from it. One man died in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines. 

The virus causes fever, coughing, respiratory distress and pneumonia. In severe cases, it can lead to organ failure and death.