The Crown Prosecution Service has warned that anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency and key workers will face serious criminal charges.
Police, shop workers and vulnerable groups have reported been deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have COVID-19, which has prompted intervention by the CPS.
Coughs directed as a threat could be charged as common assault. Assaults specifically against emergency workers are punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
David Mott, 40, from Blackburn, was jailed for 26 weeks on Wednesday after threatening to spit at police in the town, who had asked him what he was doing out with two others.
He also admitted possession of an offensive weapon, possession of a Class B drug and threatening behaviour.
Darren Rafferty, 45, from Dagenham, recently admitted grievous bodily harm and three counts of assaulting an emergency worker. He claimed to have coronavirus and directed coughs at Metropolitan Police officers arresting him for another offence. He will be sentenced on April 1.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have Covid-19.
“Let me be very clear: this is a crime and needs to stop. The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”