Qld introduces heavy fines to protect frontline workers

Thursday, 30 April, 2020

Qld introduces heavy fines to protect frontline workers

People who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit on public officials and workers could be fined up to $13,345 under a new COVID-19 Public Health Direction. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was acting to protect workers serving Queenslanders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our retail workers, police and paramedics deserve to be protected — I was disturbed to hear stories of people threatening to deliberately infect frontline staff. It’s disgusting and I want police to throw the book at them,” Palaszczuk said.

A public official or worker is anyone at work or travelling for work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to, health workers, Health Department officials, police, fire and ambulance workers, retail workers, food delivery workers and transport workers including ferry, bus and train crews, and taxi and ride-share drivers. It also includes council workers, airport workers, teachers/school staff, and electricity, gas and water meter readers.

Health Minister Steven Miles said that while the risk of infection was low because there were so few cases, incidents could be very distressing for staff.

“Imagine going to work one day and having someone cough over you and then having to wait to see if you got sick. That’s the kind of distress this is causing people,” Miles said.

The direction allows for a $1335 on-the-spot fine or a court ordered penalty of up to $13,345. The direction came into effect on Monday, 27 April, and is meant to serve as further protection for frontline workers.

“Even during a global pandemic, our frontline workers show up to work each day to treat, protect and serve Queenslanders — and they should be celebrated for the heroes they are. This Public Health Direction further enforces that any form of violence or aggression against workers will not be tolerated,” said Dr Jeannette Young, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, any person who intentionally coughs, sneezes or spits at a public official or worker, or threatens to do so, can be fined up to $13,345. They may also face criminal charges. SDA State Secretary Chris Gazenbeek said retail and fast food workers have borne the brunt of an increase in customer abuse during the pandemic.

“We applaud the tough stance being taken by the Palaszczuk government to protect essential workers. There has to be zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour being directed at the amazing workers who have been keeping our community going during the COVID-19 crisis, whether it’s retail workers, health workers, police, public transport workers or any other worker. These are our neighbours stocking our shelves and manning our cash registers. They are also your friends’ sons and daughters and your colleagues’ partner or parent. Sometimes we’ve all just got to step back and remember that we’re all in this together,” Gazenbeek said.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/motortion

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