Gardaí are conducting three criminal investigations into incidents where emergency service employees have been coughed at or spat at in the course of their work.

Two of the victims are members of the gardaí, while the third is a healthcare worker at a Dublin hospital.

Two of the alleged attackers have been arrested and questioned. The third has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gardaí have called on people to report any instances where they have been threatened or intimidated by people deliberately coughing and spitting at them.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has also said that such an incident had also happened to him.

Gardaí have issued a warning that people deliberately "coughing" at other people in public may be prosecuted for a criminal offence.

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A teenager was arrested on Monday evening in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, for deliberately coughing at the gardaí. Another youth who was part of a group was arrested in Dun Laoghaire yesterday afternoon for spitting at a Garda.

A healthcare worker is also out on sick leave after a patient in a Dublin hospital deliberately spat at her while she was on duty in a Dublin hospital.  Her alleged attacker has since tested positive for Covid-19.

Garda Headquarters is ordering thousands of "spit hoods" to protect gardaí from spit and cough assaults while policing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Gardaí are seeking 16,000 spit hoods as well as other personal protection equipment including gloves, wipes, face masks, sanitisers, goggles and protective suits.

Garda Headquarters says "spit hoods" which are currently on issue to the Irish Prison Service and other police forces are currently being procured and will be deployed as a temporary measure for the Covid-19 public health situation.

Garda management is also considering various forms of additional personal protection equipment which could be deployed to operational gardaí.

The Garda Representative Association is seeking priority testing for gardaí and have been advised that gardaí with a paramedic background are being approached for training in taking samples.

Members of the armed response units who also have paramedic training will however remain in their current positions.

While public offices at Garda stations remain open people are being encouraged to contact the gardaí by phone or email.

Last night the public order unit was also called in to a park in Donnycarney in Dublin to disperse up to 100 youths.

Gardaí also say they are aware of a number of reports on social media of people deliberately coughing at others, but cannot verify them because they have not been reported to them.

They have also called on the public to directly report any such instances to them and not to recirculate such reports on social media.

In a statement, gardaí also say it is clear that public information messages are required at this time and they are asking the media not to inadvertently propagate social media myths or fake news at this time.