$5,000 fine for coughing at council staff

Anyone who spits or coughs on a council ranger or other local government staff will be slapped with a $5000 on-the-spot fine.

Brad Hazzard

The NSW government earlier this month announced it was handing police powers to fine people who intentionally spit or cough at health workers at their place of work or on the way to work as a public health measure during COVID-19.

This has now been expanded to cover public officials including hospital staff, bus drivers, train drivers, ferry deckhands, taxi drivers, ride share drivers, food delivery workers, security guards, electricity, gas and water meter readers and postal delivery staff, as well as state government contractors.

In an email on Monday the Office of Local Government advised that council staff are included in the expanded order.

The ministerial order declared by health minister Brad Hazzard on April 9 now authorises police to fine anyone who spits or coughs on health workers, police, pharmacists, paramedics and other public officials.

“The object of this Order is to deal with the public health risk of COVID-19 and its possible consequences by giving a Ministerial direction about intentionally spitting at or coughing on public officials in a way that is reasonably likely to cause fear about the spread of COVID-19,” the order says.

Maximum penalties include six months in jail.

The new powers came into force on Monday.

The order was made after incidents where health workers, retail staff and transport workers were the target of deliberate spitting or coughing,  Mr Hazzard said.

New Zealand is also cracking down and police there have sent a man to jail for two weeks for spitting at a police officer.

NZ Police say the incident occurred during a routine traffic stop in Rotorua on April 14.

“Spitting at Police will not be tolerated, especially due the increased risk associated with COVID-19,” they said in a statement.

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