PEOPLE claiming to have coronavirus who intentionally cough at emergency workers and other people could now be charged with assault.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was "appalled" by "vile" and "illegal" incidents where police and other emergency service staff were threatened by those who may have the disease.

A CPS spokesman said: "Anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency and essential workers faces serious criminal charges.

"The CPS intervention comes after reports in recent days of police, shop workers and vulnerable groups being deliberately coughed at by people claiming to have the disease.

"Such behaviour is illegal and assaults specifically against emergency workers are punishable by up to two years in prison.

"Coughs directed as a threat at other key workers or members of the public could be charged as common assault."

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said: “Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“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.”