Coughing or spitting on healthcare workers in NSW will bring an on-the-spot $5000 fine under measures introduced on Thursday.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said a disturbing trend of abuse and assault towards people in uniform amid the coronavirus pandemic had prompted the move.
He said it was disappointing the fines needed to be introduced.
“How incredibly ridiculous is it that anybody could think it’s acceptable to spit or caught on front-line health workers, health officials, police or indeed any of our Border Force officials?” he said.
“These front-line workers are caring for us and the simple fact is we need to care for them.”
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has reported healthcare workers in uniform are being assaulted on trains, refused service at grocery stories and spat on.
On Wednesday, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warned that people who deliberately coughed on health workers or abused them faced the possibility of life in jail.
“Interestingly, two people have been charged in the ACT for precisely this type of behaviour,” Mr Hunt said.
“And the same will occur in other jurisdictions as well.”
On a more positive note, Aussies are being urged to show their support for front-line workers in the coronavirus crisis with a mass round of applause on Thursday night.
The Cheer4Frontliners campaign urges Australians to “cheer, clap, yelp, bang pots, make noise” from doorsteps, balconies, windows and backyards from 8pm on Thursday.
It is inspired by a similar show of clapping in Britain for its National Health Service and has been organised by a social enterprise called Frontliners.
Frontliners has contributed $2 million in products, including care packages, to health and emergency workers leading the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
The organisation said the campaign would also make up for some of the “disgusting abuse” some health care workers and police officers have endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- See more about Cheer4Frontliners here.