Explained: As world battles coronavirus outbreak, here's how spit attacks can land you in trouble

Written By: Praphul Singh
Delhi Published: Apr 09, 2020, 07:32 PM(IST)

coronavirus in India Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Public spitting is just isn’t an Indian problem, it seems, such incidents have been reported from many developed countries

The world is struggling to contain Coronavirus as it has spread across more than 180 countries. COVID-19 has infected more than 1.4 million people, with over 89000 fatalities around the world, according to John Hopkins University. With around 2.6 billion people around the world in some kind of lockdown, experts believe not enough is being done to stop people from spitting in public places. According to them, the saliva of an infected person can carry the virus for more than 24 hours which makes spitting at public places a great cause of concern.
 
In India however, public spitting was never a concern for authorities until the coronavirus spread. In a recent press conference on April 5, Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary of Union Health Ministry said, “In view of the increasing dangers from the COVID pandemic, ICMR has issued an advisory requesting people to avoid smoking, spitting in public places and consumption of tobacco products in this period.”

In India, in two separate incidents, people were spat upon raising concerns amid coronavirus scare. In a racist attack in Delhi, a man allegedly spat tobacco on a Manipuri Woman and called her “corona”. He was later nabbed by Delhi Police and was put behind the bars. In a separate incident, a 33-year-old man from Meerut, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat Meeting in Delhi last month and had tested positive for COVID-19, spat on a doctor while creating ruckus in a quarantine facility in Kanpur.

Public spitting is just isn’t an Indian problem it seems, such incidents have been reported from many developed countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, etc. In Australia, reports emerged of how a woman after being stopped for speeding, spat on a police officer while she claimed to be on her way to get tested for Coronavirus. Reports suggested of Xenophobic attacks in America against Asian-Americans being bullied, including being spit on. A man in New Zealand was jailed for three months after spitting at a policeman. The man pleases guilty to aggravated assault against police in a hearing on Thursday at the new Plymouth district court on the country’s north island.

Spitting poses an increased risk of infection among people. So what should one do if you come in contact with someone’s spit? 

According to NHS (National Health Service, UK), you should:

*Wash the affected area with soap and lots of running water
*If there is a wound, encourage the wound to bleed and rinse it thoroughly under running water- but don’t scrub or suck the wound.
*Wash your nose, eyes, and mouth with lots of cold running water.
*The next step is to consult your doctor immediately for further steps.

Can fines and jail terms be the way to stop public spitting?

Many countries think so. Countries like New Zealand, Belgium, Australia, France, Norway, etc have imposed heavy fines and jail terms to control public spitting amid coronavirus.

Following is a list of countries that have punishments in place on public spitting or spitting on healthcare workers:

*New Zealand: A person could face 14 years in jail if they spit or cough on another person and infect them with a disease.

Belgium: Offenders could be fined up to €2,400 and could face prison terms of between 3 months and 2 years.

Australia: In New South Wales, authorities have introduced a fine of $5000 for spitting or coughing on frontline workers. Offenders could also be awarded a jail term of up to six months.

France: A Mayor in northern France passed an order on April 2 to fine citizens spitting in public. A fine of $74 could be imposed on offenders which can go up to $197 for late payment of the fine.

Saudi Arabia: A man in Saudi Arabia being trialled for spitting in shopping trolleys could face the death penalty as his actions amount to first-degree murder.

Norway: Norwegian Court has sentenced a man to 75 days of prison for threatening to spit on a police officer. He was also sentenced to pay $188 as fine.

Singapore: A man is jailed for spitting and shouting “Corona Corona” at Changi Airport hotel on March 3

Also Read: Coronavirus timeline: From COVID-19's origin to spread

What's India doing?

In India, Uttar Pradesh was among the first states to slap a ban on selling tobacco products and spitting in public. Telangana became another state to ban spitting in public places as part of COVID-19 containment measures. The health department in a notification issued today declared banning spitting of any chewable tobacco or non-tobacco products in public places. The government, however, has clarified that there is no penalty for violating the order and requested the citizens to act responsibly.

Maharashtra and Gujarat are other states that have imposed a ban on public spitting and declared a fine of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 respectively for offenders violating the ban. Respective authorities in Bengaluru and Vijaywada has also decided to fine people caught in violating the ban with Rs 1000. CM of Odisha, in a public appeal on March 13, urged people from his state to stop spitting “Paan” in a step to fight coronavirus.

Lastly, the solution to this problem lies in our own hands. Authorities can impose fines, put offenders behind the bars, but until people stop using it as a tool to defy public order or violate rules, nothing can stop the menace.

By spreading correct information and challenging mindsets of people, and speaking up when we come across those who are spitting, coughing in public spaces, we may be able to change the habits of at least a few of them.

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