Police and public safety remains priority during COVID 19

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Police are reminding the community that threats involving COVID-19 and spitting or coughing on emergency workers could end in serious penalties, including jail.

To date, ACT Policing has received more than 740 reports of COVID-19 related incidents. No infringements have been issued.

Several people have been charged with criminal offences for behaviour that has links with COVID-19 but not related to the health directions.

Two men have faced the ACT Magistrates Court charged with acting to cause public alarm.

A woman has also faced court charged with assault after coughing in a police officer’s face and claiming to have COVID-19 when being arrested for another matter on the weekend.

Chief Police Officer for the ACT Ray Johnson said the incident was serious and concerning for ACT Policing members and the community.

“Alarmingly, there has been a notable change in people’s behaviour in recent weeks to use the seriousness of COVID-19 to threaten and scare people about their safety,” CPO Johnson said.

“This callous behaviour will not be tolerated, and I would like to remind the public that coughing and spitting on ACT Policing officers or anyone is considered an assault. Assault is a criminal charge with serious penalties including jail time.

“Coughing and spitting on someone is disgusting at all times, and in the COVID-19 environment there is additional risk to safety.

“I am proud of the way our officers involved in these incidents have remained professional in their response and continue to follow appropriate health and safety advice.

“Our COVID-19 Taskforce is continuing to ensure we have the right personal protective equipment available to members and providing regular, updated guidance when needed.”

Based on current health advice, officers will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in certain circumstances including when dealing with people who have or are suspected to have COVID-19, or at any other time they think there is a risk to themselves or others.

Officers will continue to maintain enhanced hygiene measures and, where practical, will ensure there is a 1.5 metre distance during interactions with the public.

“The majority of our community are adhering to social distancing and current health directions, and I thank them for their cooperation,” CPO Johnson said.

“As we head into the Anzac Day long weekend I would like to remind people not to become complacent.

“We will have a strong presence on our roads where we continue to see, with less cars on the road, people putting everyone’s safety at risk speeding at higher ranges.

“We will also be out in our community, participating in compliance checks with government agencies and responding to other COVID-19 reports as needed.”

For all general COVID-19 enquiries, including to make a report of non-compliance of the public health directions with referrals to ACT Health Protection Services, ACT Policing or Access Canberra Fair Trading, you can contact the COVID-19 Helpline on 6207 7244 (8am – 8pm, 7 days a week) or online.

For police assistance call 131 444 and only contact 000 in an emergency.

Media enquiries

Police Media — (02) 5126 9070, act-police-media@afp.gov.au