A boy aged 14 has become the youngest suspect to be charged with deliberately spitting or coughing at someone as the coronavirus sweeps Britain.
The youth allegedly coughed on and spat at a 66-year-old woman while shouting “coronavirus” during the incident in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, on Tuesday evening.
Because of his age, he cannot be identified and will appear in court next week charged with one count of assault.
Police have described incidents, including some targeting police, ambulance and other medical staff, as “deplorable” and warned that offenders or their parents will be pursued.
After numerous reports from around the country that emergency workers and vulnerable people were being coughed at by people claiming to have the virus, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) warned those responsible will face serious criminal charges.
Now is the time when we need our emergency services more than ever to help tackle this national emergency and we are not helped by people acting in such an irresponsible manner.
Cheshire Police have vowed to find and prosecute a group of teenagers, claiming to have the virus, who deliberately coughed at NHS staff in Warrington.
In a Facebook post, Sergeant Lee Hillyard, of Cheshire Police, said: “This is an absolutely abhorrent incident involving abuse of our NHS heroes.”
On Saturday, a man accused of spitting blood in the face of police officers was remanded in custody.
Samuel Konneh, 38, appeared at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court where he was refused bail by District Judge John Temperley.
Konneh is accused of four counts of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the spitting at the officers who were responding to reports of a woman being assaulted in Withington, south Manchester, on Thursday.
Konneh, of Easthorpe Close, Withington, was remanded into custody to appear at Manchester Crown Court on 24 April.
Greater Manchester Police have also charged another man with coughing at an officer while claiming to have coronavirus.
Mateusz Rejewski, 33, has been charged with one count of common assault on an emergency service worker and one count of breaching a dispersal notice during an incident in Piccadilly Gardens, Central Manchester, on Thursday.
The officer has since been self-isolating as a precaution. Rejewski is in custody and is due to appear at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on 28 April.
Chief Superintendent Rob O’Connor, of Cumbria Police, said: “It is deplorable at any time that people think it is acceptable to assault an emergency worker, whether they be a police officer, paramedic, nurse, firefighter or other emergency workers who is a public servant.
“Sadly we have seen examples in the last couple of weeks of police officers being spat at coughed at and people have also in some cases falsely claimed to have coronavirus which has then caused undue worry and stress for our officers.
“Now is the time when we need our emergency services more than ever to help tackle this national emergency and we are not helped by people acting in such an irresponsible manner.
“We will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to acts such as these and ask people to think before they act”.