PC shares his fears over coronavirus cough attack

A South Wales Police officer has spoken of the moment he feared being infected with Covid-19 when he was coughed on by an offender following an arrest.

PC David Roberts-Ablett said it “played on his mind” that he’d contracted the disease when he was assaulted in Cardiff by a thug who claimed to have coronavirus symptoms.

David said: “In these times of Covid, there's a concern. It was a very worrying moment.

“He had been quite aggressive, so I asked him to calm down. It was a very deliberate motion by him, he turned his head, his eyes, fixated on me.

“It was almost like he was targeting me, and he picked my face, and then deliberately looked straight at me and coughed at me.

“Fortunately, I was wearing my glasses and a mask at the time so I was protected.”

David was coughed on by Darrell Glen Humphries, who claimed he had coronavirus symptoms after he was arrested for being violent towards staff at a Tesco supermarket in Cardiff.

Humphries, who did not have Covid-19 and is from Cardiff, was jailed for 26 weeks for the attack.

David said: “It was a very worrying moment, thinking ‘have I now got Covid?’.”

“I thought what do I do? Where do I go?

“There is being a police officer and dealing with the criminal aspect of things, but there's a more humane side to it as well, where there's a lot of implications on me and my family, my colleagues and the people I am serving in Cardiff.

“It does play on your mind because for a while you just don't know.”

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne praised David for speaking about his ordeal.

Posting on Twitter, Steve said: “Really important for officers to tell their story about the impact of assaults upon them.

“Often the impact of cold data does not present the actual reality of the crime. There are humans behind the figures and the effects of an assault can be significant.”

According to research by the BBC, 55 of the 167 charges of assaults on officers in South Wales, the first three months of lockdown related to officers being spat or coughed on.

In neighbouring Gwent, assaults against officers rose from 54 to 57, but decreased in Dyfed Powys from 111 to 96.

In North Wales, 30 of the 157 recorded crimes against officers were coughing and spitting, which has risen from 14 in 2019. From that, 23 were charged, up from 10 in the previous year, a BBC freedom of information request discovered.

Overall, there was a 21 per cent increase in assaults on officers across the UK in the first three months of lockdown.

South Wales Chief Constable Matt Jukes said: “What we’ve seen is a number of people effectively making a weapon out of spitting and then presenting that they've got or believe they might have Covid-19.

“A colleague who’d been involved in an incident said ‘in some ways I'd rather be shoved, or punched, than get bitten or spat out, because of that long-term worry about the impact on health’.

“What the spitting and biting does is leaves officers with real uncertainty, until they can get test results.

“It's not always Covid-19, sometimes it's other infectious diseases. Sometimes they have to wait for reassurance or knowledge that there may be another issue they need to deal with.”