Anyone caught deliberately coughing on emergency and essential workers in the UK during the coronavirus outbreak could face up to two years in prison, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.
The move has been prompted by a number of incidents this week where people have used the the threat of catching the virus to intimidate others.
In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “Coughs directed as a threat at other key workers or members of the public could be charged as common assault.”
On Tuesday, HuffPost UK reported a supermarket worker was spat at by a customer attempting to stockpile Pot Noodles while another was told: “I hope you get the virus and die.”
On Monday three teenagers were arrested after allegedly coughing on an elderly couple in Hertfordshire.
Darren Rafferty, 45, of Dagenham, east London admitted three counts of assault after he “coughed on police officers and stated that he was suffering from coronavirus”.
And David Mott, 40, was jailed on Wednesday after threatening to spit at police in Blackburn who had asked him what he was doing out with two others.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have Covid-19.
“Let me be very clear: this is a crime and needs to stop. The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”