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Protecting Public Officials and Workers

Protecting Public Officials and Workers (Spitting, Coughing and Sneezing) Direction (No. 3)

During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, anyone who intentionally coughs, sneezes or spits at a public official or worker, or threatens to do so, may be given an on the spot fine of $1,334. They can also face criminal charges or 6 months imprisonment.

If a public official or other worker is exposed to COVID-19, it can mean that the person is no longer able to provide a critical service while the person is being tested or is required to undergo a period of isolation. It could also spark further outbreaks, leading to serious illness and deaths in the community.

Public officials or workers include anyone at work or travelling to and from work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • health workers and health department officials
  • police, fire and ambulance officers
  • Centrelink workers
  • retail workers
  • food delivery workers
  • transport workers e.g. ferry crews and bus, train, taxi and ride-share drivers
  • electricity, gas and water meter readers
  • airport workers
  • teachers
  • council workers
  • corrective services officers
  • youth justice staff

For full details read the Protecting Public Officials and Workers (Spitting, Coughing and Sneezing) Direction.

Questions and Answers about this Direction

Why is this Direction necessary?

Queenslanders rely on public officials and other workers to provide critical goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, a small number of people have coughed, sneezed or spat at public officials and other workers, or threatened to do so. The Direction has been created to protect workers from this highly dangerous and unacceptable behaviour.

 

What happens when someone coughs, spits or sneezes at a public official or other worker?

A public official or other worker could be exposed to COVID-19, which harms their health and would take them from their critical work that supports the community. It could also spark further outbreaks, leading to serious illness and deaths in the community.

 

What if I only threaten to cough, spit or sneeze?

Even a simple statement can be enough to cause the worker to believe they will be at risk. Threatening to cough, spit or sneeze is serious and is subject to the same penalty under this direction.

 

Who is considered a public official or other worker?

A public official or other worker is anyone at work or travelling for work, including but not limited to:

  • health workers and health department officials
  • police, fire and ambulance officers
  • teachers
  • Centrelink workers
  • council workers / local government workers
  • corrective services officers
  • youth justice staff members
  • retail workers
  • food delivery workers
  • transport workers – e.g. ferry crews and bus, train, taxi and ride-share drivers
  • electricity, gas and water meter readers
  • airport workers.
 

Are any workers at greater risk?

While this direction applies to all public officials and other workers, the risks are especially pronounced for police, health, corrective services and other front-line workers who interact regularly and at close proximity with members of the public.

 

What penalties will apply if I am caught?

Any person who intentionally coughs, sneezes or spits at a public official or other worker, or threatens to do so, can be fined up to $1,334. They may also face criminal charges or 6 months imprisonment.

 

I saw someone sneeze/cough/spit at a public official or other worker or threaten to do so. Is there anyone I can report it to?

You should report anyone who intentionally sneezes/coughs/spits at another person, such as a public official or other worker, to Policelink on 131 444. You should also report anyone who threatens to sneeze, cough or spit at another person.

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Questions and Requests for exemptions

If you are seeking clarification on a Direction or have any questions, please call 134 COVID (13 42 68).

To apply for an exemption to a Direction please complete the online form.

Submit your request online