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Fact Check-Queensland rules do not outlaw unvaccinated people sneezing

Social media users are falsely claiming that incoming public health measures in Australia will criminalise unvaccinated people for sneezing when in public. The rules will only apply to the deliberate abuse and targeting of staff.

Several posts share a shortened clip of a news broadcast to claim it will be illegal for unvaccinated people in Queensland to sneeze anywhere in public (here, here).

Meanwhile, others claimed unvaccinated people would be arrested or fined simply for being outside their homes (here).

Queensland’s chief medical officer issued a health directive in April 2020 (here) enacting protections for public officials and some workers in response to increasing reports of people deliberately sneezing or coughing on or spitting at public officials and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (here).

The directive punishes anyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who intentionally sneezes, coughs or spits at a public official or worker or threatens to do so, with fines, criminal charges or imprisonment (here).

On. Dec. 17, Queensland will ease restrictions on businesses and borders, according to a Dec. 8 update (here).

The state will also introduce mandatory vaccination for health workers as well as restrictions for unvaccinated people, such as a ban on visiting some hospitality and entertainment venues.

The Queensland Government said the restrictions on unvaccinated people are “necessary” to avoid overwhelming the state’s hospital system (here).

As part of the changes, Queensland officials announced an expansion of its existing sneezing, spitting and coughing offence to protect more types of staff, including hospitality workers.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said punishments for violating the directive include a $1,378 on-the-spot fine, a court-ordered penalty of around $13,785 and up to six months’ imprisonment, according to reports (here).

VERDICT

False. A Queensland public health order does not apply to all sneezing in public by unvaccinated people. It punishes individuals who deliberately sneeze, cough or spit on staff, or threaten to do so.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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