At least six reports of coronavirus-related attacks have been received by Devon and Cornwall Police.
People from Chinese and Asian backgrounds in Exeter have been assaulted and verbally abused by groups of men.
Victims, three of them students, have been punched, kicked, spat on and told to “go back to your own country – you must have coronavirus”.
The force said it was treating the attacks as hate crimes.
Three attacks happened within 24 hours earlier this week.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old university student from China was approached by four men, thought to be in their 20s, on Castle Street.
They shouted abuse before assaulting him, stealing his cap and threatening him with a knife.
Police are also investigating an attack on two Asian men by a group of four or five men at around 02:45 GMT on Sidwell Street on Friday.
Members of the group shouted at the pair, accusing them of having coronavirus, before one of them was punched.
Another incident involved an attack on an Asian taxi driver by two male passengers at 00:30 on Sunday on New North Road.
The 35-year-old victim was taunted with questions about where he was from and whether he had coronavirus before being punched and kicked.
Police say other incidents involved “lower-level verbal abuse” including shouting “corona” and “coronavirus carrier” at Chinese people
Sgt Emma Storey-Barrett said police had linked up with Exeter University to help students “feel supported and safe”.
In London, two teenagers were arrested for an attack on a student from Singapore.
Source: BBC News