Print

Protecting public officials and workers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone who intentionally spits, coughs or sneezes at a public official or worker, or threatens to do so, may be given an on the spot fine of $1,378. They may also face criminal charges or 6 months imprisonment.

If a public official or other worker is exposed to COVID-19 as a result, 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.

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
  • government employees including council workers
  • retail workers
  • food delivery workers
  • transport workers e.g. ferry crews and bus, train, taxi and ride-share drivers
  • utilities workers, including electricity, gas and water meter readers
  • airport workers
  • teachers
  • corrective services officers
  • youth justice staff
  • members of the Australian Defence Force.

If you see someone sneeze, cough or spit at a public official or other worker, or threaten to do so, you should report it to Policelink on 131 444. You can also report anyone who threatens to sneeze, cough or spit at another person.

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

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 frontline workers who interact regularly and at close proximity with members of the public.

Where do I report someone sneezing/coughing/spitting at a public official or other worker or threatening to do so?

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.