25/02/2020 1:33 PM AEDT | Updated 13/04/2020 1:40 PM AEST

MasterChef Star Addresses Coronavirus And Chinese Restaurant Panic: 'Viruses Are Not Discriminatory To A Race'

Diana Chan told HuffPost Australia that people should continue dining at Chinese restaurants because "if you were going to catch it, you could catch it anywhere".

WILLIAM WEST via Getty Images
This photo taken on February 14, 2020 shows staff clearing a table at a Chinese restaurant in Melbourne's Chinatown. 

MasterChef Australia star Diana Chan has urged people to support local Chinese restaurants following racism and xenophobia towards Asian-Australian communities in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 2017 winner of the cooking reality show said many Australians have refrained from dining at Chinese eateries because they are “afraid” of catching the disease, however she argued that they shouldn’t be so fearful because “viruses are not discriminatory to a race”. 

“If you were going to catch it, you could catch it anywhere,” Chan told HuffPost Australia. “It’s not necessarily in a Chinese restaurant and confined spaces. It can happen anywhere. It shouldn’t stop you going about your daily lives.”

The celebrity chef said people should seek comfort in outlets having the “duty of care as well to look after the patrons and make sure that they handle food with top hygiene”. 

Former MasterChef Australia winner Diana Chan has urged Australians to dine at Chinese restaurants following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 
Sam Tabone via Getty Images
New Master Chef Melissa Leong (centre) has also encouraged people to support local Chinese businesses. 

MasterChef Australia’s new judge Melissa Leong agreed. In an article she penned for SBS, the Singaporean Australian said: “As media campaigns and hashtags jump on the bandwagon to rescue this part of the industry, it’s even more impetus to visit your favourite Chinese restaurant, if ever there was one”. 

Both Chan and Leong’s comment come after the #IWillEatWithYou social media campaign recently gained momentum. 

Community action organisation GetUp! introduced the hashtag last week, asking its supporters: “Can you pledge #IWillEatWithYou & eat at an Asian restaurant to show your support?”

“While other restaurants and public spaces are still buzzing, it is the Chinatown restaurants and Asian grocers that stand empty. Panic around the virus is unfairly impacting Chinese and Asian communities,” the organisation stated on its website

“If we don’t take action – people will lose their jobs, and their livelihoods. Can you take the pledge to defeat baseless fears and support these businesses in their time of need?”

Earlier this month Gabriel Chan, the owner of Melbourne’s Chinatown restaurant Shark Fin, said he was closing the doors to the 30-year-old eatery after business had suffered. 

’’It’s very hard... With customer fears of coronavirus still high, ‘‘we can see numbers reducing’,” he told The Age

“We’re very sad, very unhappy, but we still have to work, so I would tell the people don’t scare, come to the restaurant, support us.”

Mr Chan also owns sister restaurant, Shark Fin Inn. He said he made the decision to close one of his businesses down in order for the other to survive. 

The restaurateur told the publication that customer numbers had dropped by 80 per cent, while more than 40 staff, plus 10 casuals had been let go. 

Australia has 22 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), eight in Queensland, four in NSW, six in Victoria, three in South Australia and one in Western Australia.