Queensland is instituting some of the toughest fines yet for those who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit at public officials and workers.
The direction allows for fines of up to $13,345 for those who do so, and includes transport workers including train crews.
The move follows similar fines in NSW, where police can issue anyone who coughs or spits on workers a fine of up to $5,000.
Announcing the directive, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that she wanted to protect workers.
“I was disturbed to hear stories of people threatening to deliberately infect frontline staff.
“It’s disgusting and I want police to throw the book at them.”
The directive covers a public official or any worker at work or travelling for work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
There have been reports of spitting and attacks on transport staff in other jurisdictions in Australian and New Zealand. On April 20, Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said there were two incidents where essential workers have been spat at.
“A couple were joy-riding on our trains and were told to get off. As they were being escorted from the train, a female spat at three of our staff. Two men and a woman have had to be stood down as a result of this incident and have gone into isolation. This behaviour is totally unacceptable. The incident was caught on CCTV and the police now have that footage.”
Another incident occurred when a security guard was spat at while working for Auckland Transport.
“Our staff and contractors are out there in all weathers ensuring that essential workers can get to their jobs and we cannot tolerate this sort of behaviour. We are working with the police to ensure that our staff can do their job without being assaulted,” said Ellison.
In NSW, a teenage girl spat at a Sydney railway station staffer, and said, “I have COVID” according to reports.
David Babineau, secretary of the Tram and Bus Division of the Rail, Tram & Bus Union of NSW, said that all workers should be treated with respect.
“Frankly, it’s disgusting in any circumstance but in the middle of the current health crisis it cannot be tolerated. Everyone has the right to go home safely from work and not wonder if they are bringing a potentially fatal disease home to their loved ones.”