Coronavirus: Covid-19 used as a weapon, says Essex top officer

Assistant chief constable of Essex Police, Paul WellsImage source, Essex Police
Image caption,
Assistant Chief Constable of Essex Paul Wells, has said a suspect had deliberately coughed at officers

People are using coronavirus as a weapon against the police, a senior officer for Essex has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells spoke out after officers were deliberately coughed at on two occasions on Saturday.

Anyone who purposefully coughs over key workers will face criminal charges, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned.

Mr Wells said officers had to continue their regular duties even during "these incredibly challenging times".

Three officers were kicked, coughed at and spat on while responding to reports of an assault in Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday, the force said.

Officers were also coughed at and bitten while making an arrest in Ongar on the same day.

'Just doing job'

Mr Wells said: "Unbelievably, this weekend, we have seen suspects using the Covid-19 virus as a weapon against officers.

"In just a 12-hour period, we had officers who had been kicked, spat and coughed at after responding to emergency calls from shop workers, who were also just doing their job.

"Fortunately incidents like these remain rare."

A man has admitted assaulting an emergency worker, and other charges over the incident in Leigh-on-Sea. He is due to be sentenced later this month.

A man has been arrested and bailed in connection with the attack in Ongar.

Image caption,
Essex Police reported two incidents of officers being coughed at on Saturday

Sgt Stephen Taylor, Essex Police Federation chairman, said: "Our role is to help people and keep them safe and there are simply no excuses for assaulting officers.

"To be spat and coughed at during these unprecedented times is not acceptable."

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