NEWS
08/04/2020 1:27 PM AEST | Updated 09/04/2020 12:49 PM AEST

'Imprisonment For Life': Covid-19 Deliberate Transmission Maximum Penalty Announced

There's been an increase in the number of healthcare workers assaulted and coughed on.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak. 

  • Maximum penalty for trying to deliberately spread Covid-19
  • 11 million masks will be allocated to healthcare workers 
  • Increased testing of healthcare workers 

Following recent cases of Australians assaulting, threatening or coughing on healthcare workers in particular, the maximum penalty for trying to deliberately spread coronavirus has now been announced.

“I have advice from the Attorney-General’s Department which I want to read,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“And that is, ‘The deliberate transmission of COVID-19 is an offence under the general criminal laws that apply in every state and territory. The most serious of these open fences may carry maximum penalties up to imprisonment for life if somebody was to take a step which led to the death of a healthcare worker’.

“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.” 

Minister Hunt said two people in the ACT had already been charged for “this type of behaviour” and the government’s plan supports “stepping up our protection of healthcare workers”.

Sam Mooy via Getty Images
Minister for Health Greg Hunt

He thanked doctors, nurses, pharmacists, allied health workers and aged care workers for continuing to go to work during this pandemic and assured more Covid-19 testing for healthcare workers will be conducted. 

There will also be 11,000 masks distributed to healthcare workers. 

In the same press conference, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Tony Bartone asked the public to cease unnecessary use of face masks so more healthcare workers have access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

“I must remind Australians that the wearing of masks down the street of the CBD is really, an inordinate waste of valuable resources,” he said.

“They’re masks that potentially could be used in a healthcare setting and putting my colleagues at risk, and I remind Australians that that is not within the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer, nor of any of the chief health officers in that respect.”

At least 5,900 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Australia and 49 people have died.

The virus has killed more than 81,000 people worldwide and more than 1.4 million are infected.

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