Coronavirus: Police Commissioner hits out at people spitting on cops, health staff

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has hit out at people spitting on cops and health staff, calling it "completely unacceptable".

"The behaviour of a small minority in targeting police staff or members of the public by coughing or spitting is extremely disappointing and concerning," he said at his press conference on Wednesday.

"We have identified spitting as an escalating risk to both police officers and the community. There have been multiple reports of hospital staff and supermarket workers being spat on or being threatened in the same manner."

Coster said since the introduction of the level 4 restrictions, eight police staff have had to self-isolate after being spat at by people who said they had COVID-19.

"This completely unacceptable behaviour of spitting puts our people and others at risk. It causes stress and anxiety as affected staff are then required to self-isolate," he said.

He warned that if someone does spit or cough on another person and infect them, they risk being charged with infecting with disease and could be charged under the Crimes Act. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned people who purposefully spit or cough on others because they think it's funny that they "will be arrested".

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield agreed with Ardern, saying "it's completely out of order".

Their comments came after Christchurch man Raymond Coombs shared a since-deleted Facebook video in which he coughed and sneezed on shoppers at Fresh Choice supermarket in Barrington.

He pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court on Monday April 6 to a charge of 'behaving in an offensive manner'.