People who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit on public officials and workers including shop assistants could be fined up to $13,345. under a new COVID-19 Public Health Direction.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was acting to protect workers serving Queenslanders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our retail workers, police and paramedics deserve to be protected – I was disturbed to hear stories of people threatening to deliberately infect frontline staff,” the Premier said.
“It’s disgusting and I want police to throw the book at them.”
Health Minister Steven Miles said that while the risk of infection was low because there were so few cases, incidents could be very distressing for staff.
“Imagine going to work one day and having someone cough over you and then having to wait to see if you got sick,” Mr Miles said.
“That’s the kind of distress this is causing people.”
The Direction allows for a $1,335 on the spot fine or a court ordered penalty of up to $13,345.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the Direction, which will be in effect from Monday 27 April, would serve as further protection for our frontline workers.
“Even during a global pandemic, our frontline workers show up to work each day to treat, protect and serve Queenslanders – and they should be celebrated for the heroes they are,” Dr Young said.
“This public health direction further enforces that any form of violence or aggression against workers will not be tolerated.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, any person who intentionally coughs, sneezes or spits at a public official or a worker, or threatens to do so, can be fined up to $13,345. They may also face criminal charges.
A public official or a worker is anyone at work or travelling for work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Health workers and Health Department officials
- Police, fire and ambulance officers
- Retail workers
- Food delivery workers
- Transport workers including ferry, bus and train crews and taxi and ride-share drivers
- Council workers
- Electricity, gas and water meter readers
- Airport workers
- Teachers and school staff
SDA State Secretary, Chris Gazenbeek said retail and fast food workers have borne the brunt of a huge upsurge in customer abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We applaud the tough stance being taken by the Palaszczuk Government to protect essential workers,” he said.
“There has to be zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour being directed at the amazing workers who have been keeping our community going during the COVID-19 crisis, whether it’s retail workers, health workers, police, public transport workers or any other worker.
“It’s disturbing that we’d need a law that stops this kind of disgraceful behaviour, but unfortunately we do.
“These are our neighbours stocking our shelves and manning our cash registers. They are also your friends’ sons and daughters and your colleagues’ partner or parent. Sometimes we’ve all just got to step back and remember that we’re all in this together.”