The Crown Prosecution Service today announced they would prosecute anyone who coughs on or at emergency service staff during the coronavirus crisis.
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Doing so against emergency workers would be punishable by up to a year in prison, while coughs directed as a threat towards other key workers or members of the public could be charged as common assault.
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.”
The warning comes after Darren Rafferty, 45, admitted on Wednesday to deliberately coughing at Metropolitan Police officers before claiming he was suffering from coronavirus.
He also admitted causing grievous bodily harm to his former partner and three counts of assault on an emergency worker and now faces sentencing next month.
It comes as police began have using checkpoints to stop vehicles and ask drivers if their journey is essential during the coronavirus lockdown.
Cops across the UK have been asking drivers today where they are going and why they are going there.
Road blocks have been set up today in Plymouth, Devon and in Cornwall, with 150 cars checked in Penzance, Hayle and St Ives.
Other areas have come up with their own approach to stopping crowds, with police in Manchester reportedly using sirens and a loud hailer while officers in Derbyshire have been using drones.
Meanwhile police were today handed new powers to fine Brits up to £1000 for breaking rules for being outside their homes.
Officers will aim to slow the spread of by asking people to go indoors and will be authorised to use force if they refuse.
The base rate for the fine is £60, which is then reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
Several of the same offences will see the charges soar, with Brits hit with a £960 fine for not doing their bit.
Those who keep disobeying can be arrested and locked up.