Queensland authorities have announced tough new penalties for people who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit on doctors, nurses, Police and retail workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
A new public health emergency order has been issued giving Police the power to issue $1300 fines to people who attack frontline workers.
That fine could reach $13,000 if it goes to court.
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The order also covers fire fighters, paramedics, teachers and school staff, health department officials, food delivery drivers, transport workers, council workers, utilities staff, taxi and rideshare drivers.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says that sort of behaviour is “absolutely disgusting.”
“Everyone is out there, trying to do the right thing, doing their work, but we don’t want people harassing them and causing them distress in the workplace,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Police have received numerous reports of doctors and nurses being threatened with being coughed upon in fever clinics while a man was charged with assault after allegedly spitting on a nurse at a Brisbane hospital.
Paramedics have also been subjected to threats.
There has been a number of altercations in supermarkets and pharmacies across the State with staff verbally and physically attacked.
Health Minister Steven Miles says it’s completely unacceptable.
“Everyone who is working right now is working because they’re considered essential, they should never feel
threatened at work, they should certainly never be threatened with being deliberately infected with COVID-19,” Mr Miles said.
“During a pandemic, a cough can be used as a weapon. A sneeze can be as dangerous as a knife. Spitting is of course always disgusting.”
State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski says Police will not be afraid to enforce the new order.
“Everyone should be assured that Police officers will take this very seriously and investigate this very thoroughly. This is not an acceptable behavior,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.
“That kind of deliberate act can cause great stress to the person it was directed at and that includes, of course, frontline Police as well as other workers.”
Meantime Police have expressed concern that some people have started to become complacent and ignore tough coronavirus restrictions.
Officers issued 114 Penalty Infringement Notices over the weekend for people breaking the rules.
“What’s disappointing about these is we’re seeing too many people still having parties, either street parties or in-house parties against the restrictions. That’s really not acceptable.
“Now is not the time to undo all the good work that’s been done and similarly, we’re seeing people commit other offences such as hooning.”
Some restrictions in Queensland will be eased from Friday night allowing people to have picnics and travel up to 50km for recreational purposes.
But Police have warned they will continue to enforce all other rules and have urged people not to cross the line.