Increasing reports of verbal abuse and assaults on people on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis are being reported every day.
Police, NHS staff and key workers are reporting being verbally abused, spat or coughed at, with some people claiming to have Covid-19 symptoms.
Chief Superintendent Jane Derrick said: “We have engaged, explained and encouraged people to do the right thing in following the government’s guidance to stay home and ensure we protect the NHS and ultimately save lives during this devastating public health crisis. With those who chose not comply with the government’s guidance, we have taken the necessary enforcement action.
“However we had cases of our officers who are engaging with the public or responding to reports of crime who have been spat or coughed on by individuals claiming to have coronavirus in a bid to avoid being arrested. We have also had reports of people spitting at and verbally abusing key workers.
“It is appalling that the women and men on the frontline of this crisis are being threatened with the virus that they are working so hard every day to protect us against. The fact that they are being spat or coughed on is bad enough, but to then claim to have Covid-19, makes the behaviour even more despicable. Being assaulted is not part of the job.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that such behaviour could constitute common assault, and attacks on emergency workers specifically were punishable by up to two years in prison.