The authorities have warned that anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency or key workers faces a hefty punishment.
The warning comes after a series of reports of police, shop staff and others being coughed at in recent days.
The Crown Proscution Service (CPS) today said that anyone coughing on key workers as a threat could be charged with common assault.
“Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic,” said Max Hill QC, director of public prosecutions.
“I am therefore appalled by reports of police officers and other frontline workers being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have Covid-19.
“Let me be very clear: this is a crime and needs to stop.
“The CPS stands behind emergency and essential workers and will not hesitate to prosecute anybody who threatens them as they go about their vital duties.”
One of the people coughing on emergency workers is Darren Rafferty, 45, from Dagenham.
Mr Rafferty yesterday confessed to assaulting an emergency worker, after he claimed to have coronavirus and directed coughs at Met officers arresting him for another offence.
The news comes after a bus company which operates Southwark routes out of a depot in Walworth said its drivers were being spat upon during the coronavirus crisis.
Abellio, which runs the C10 and 381 from its Walworth depot, said on Monday that three of its drivers had been spat upon by members of the public in just three days.
“Please show drivers the respect they deserve if you are conducting essential travel on one of our buses,” the service said. “3 of our drivers have been spat at by customers in the last 3 days, unacceptable at any time, but especially in the current climate.”