Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who coughs at UK police, shop workers faces jail

People with masks in front of Tower Bridge in London on March 23, 2020. Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions said people responsible for coughing in the faces of police, emergency workers and shop staff could face charges of common assault.
People with masks in front of Tower Bridge in London on March 23, 2020. Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions said people responsible for coughing in the faces of police, emergency workers and shop staff could face charges of common assault.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers faces being jailed for two years, Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions said on Thursday (March 26).

Mr Max Hill said there had been reports in recent days of people coughing in the faces of police, other emergency workers and shop staff. Those responsible could face charges of common assault, he said.

"Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic," Mr Hill said in a statement.

"I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other front-line 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."

On Wednesday, a 45-year-old man admitted three counts of assaulting an emergency worker after claiming to have the coronavirus and directing coughs at London police officers arresting him for another offence, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

In Blackburn, northern England, a 40-year-old man was jailed after threatening to spit at officers on Monday after they had asked why he was out with two others following the government's announcement that social gatherings should cease and that people observe strict rules on social distancing.