The large grocery store chain Woolworths is currently under fire after one of their employees at a Port Hedland store in Australia’s Pilbara region allegedly singled out an Asian customer out of fear that the customer had the coronavirus.
The coronavirus, which was first detected in China’s Hubei province during the end of last year, has been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation. More than 14,000 people have been identified as being infected with the virus, ranging from China, its place of origin, to the United States. The difficult to contain illness has also gone on to claim the lives of more than 300 people.
Due to its place of origin, many Chinese nationals and Asians, in general, have claimed to be singled out and in some cases discriminated against due to their Asiatic features. This is what allegedly happened in January 2020 in the Woolworths store. A witness claims to have seen a Woolworths employee, aggressively target a shopper of Asian descent citing fear of the deadly virus. The employee forced the shopper to vacate the store immediately. The witness went on to say that the employee then celebrated the removal of the shopper as a sort of victory.
An Asian friend of the person who witnessed the exchange posted about the incident on twitter stating “What happens if a member of your staff aggressively removes a shopper of Asian descent from your store and prevents other Asians then regales the tale as if they are a hero preventing coronavirus to other customers?” The woman goes on to mention that she too has felt uneasy since the coronavirus outbreak while out. She claims that although she has never been to Asia, she felt targeted by others due to her appearance.
Incidents such as this are becoming more and more common in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus. Other reports such as a restaurant owner displaying a sign on his window saying “no Chinese allowed” and a young boy being chased and cornered at school due to fear of him being ill, are only a few in the new reality of some in Australia as well as around the world.
As for the person who brought the incident to the forefront, she claims that she gets nervous out in public these days. Upon posting on the social media platform; however, many others have also chimed in making it clear that they found the Woolworths employee’s actions to be unacceptable and intolerable. A formal complaint was issued to the megastore, and an official investigation is currently underway.
Woolworths, on its end, has identified the employee and states that they take complaints such as this one very seriously. They go on to say that everyone is welcomed in their stores and regret if any of their shoppers feel that this isn’t the case. The store’s spokesperson goes on to say that they reached out to the customer that was targeted and have apologised and appropriate action will be taken in regards to their employee.