Anyone who deliberately transmits coronavirus to someone else could face life in prison, officials have warned.
Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement during the parliamentary sitting on Wednesday after revealing there had been some “very troubling cases of people who have either assaulted or threatened healthcare workers”.
Under advice from the Attorney-General's Department, Mr Hunt said people could face the maximum sentence of life in prison if their deliberate infections led to someone dying.
"The deliberate transmission of COVID-19 is an offence under the general criminal laws that apply in every state and territory," he said.
“In addition, those same state and territory criminal laws also make it an offence to cause someone else to fear that they are having transmitted to them the virus, for example by coughing on them. Interestingly, two people have been charged in the ACT for precisely this type of behaviour."
Mr Hunt said the government was stepping up protection for healthcare professionals.
“These are our heroes,” he said.
People being charged ‘every day’
Over the weekend, a man was arrested for allegedly spitting in the face of a police officer while claiming to be infected with coronavirus.
Police said the 37-year-old Nowra man punched a senior constable in the face and then spat at the injured officer during a struggle about 8.30am on Saturday.
The man, who faces charges including assaulting and intimidating police, was refused bail and is due to appear in Nowra Local Court on Sunday.
A 33-year-old Perth man has been charged after he allegedly told police he had the coronavirus while being arrested over serious family violence.
Police say the Redcliffe man made the claim on March 11, but admitted he had lied the following day, which was confirmed when his test results came back negative.
The man is in custody, charged with creating a false belief and making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances, and has been summonsed to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on April 23.
In Tasmania, a 29-year-old man is facing charges after allegedly telling police he had the coronavirus during a traffic stop in Launceston last week.
He is accused of failing to comply with a public health direction by being away from his residence without a valid reason.
He was also charged with breaching a family violence order, evading police, driving recklessly and without a licence, and resisting arrest by claiming he had the virus.
Sydney's Central Local Court was told last Tuesday an accused man could not appear as "he's claiming he has the coronavirus and is trying to spit on the staff", while NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says people are being charged for spitting and coughing on others "every day".
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