People who cough or spit on health workers, police, pharmacists, paramedics or other public officials during the COVID-19 health crisis, now risk a $5,000 on-the-spot fine.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Police Minister David Elliott said the tough new measures are in response to the abhorrent acts of some individuals in recent weeks.

“Every day our doctors and nurses, police and paramedics put their health and safety on the line to protect us, and a threat to them, is a threat to us,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The virus has infected thousands of health workers around the world and killed many, so if you deliberately risk people’s health you will be fined and possibly imprisoned.”

The change under the Public Health Regulation 2012 has introduced a fine of $5,000 for breaching the new public health order signed today.

Mr Elliott said individuals who intentionally spit or cough on police officers during the pandemic could also face prosecution and possibly up to six months in prison.

“Like most people, I find the recent actions of a handful of individuals utterly foul and obnoxious but worryingly, the behaviour is potentially life threatening,” Mr Elliot said.

“COVID-19 kills – the global death toll is already more than 85,000 people and climbing – so if you spit or cough on any of our police officers, who are putting their own safety on the line to protect you, you will face the consequences and be slapped with a fine.”

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said it is incomprehensible that measures like this are necessary during a deadly global pandemic but police stand ready to respond.

“Foul acts like coughing and spitting, which can potentially spread COVID-19, pose a risk to public safety, so police won’t hesitate to take action,” Mr Fuller said.

“The rules are clear and they apply to everyone, so if you decide to ignore a direction, you will be caught and you will receive a hefty fine and possibly a prison sentence.”

Members of the public can report to Crime Stoppers if they have any concern that individuals are not complying with public health orders by calling 1800 333 000.

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