Fifty attacks on police officers during the coronavirus outbreak involved them being bitten, spat at or coughed on, shocking new figures reveal.

Thames Valley Police has seen an increase in the number of assaults on officers during the virus pandemic.

Figures released today (May 18) show that between March and April this year, there were 198 assaults on officers - of those, 50 of the attacks involved an officer being spat at, coughed at, or even bitten.

The overall level of assault on officers is up compared with the same period last year - between March and April 2019 there were 158 assaults.

Thames Valley Police Chief Constable John Campbell said spitting on or coughing on an emergency service worker is "despicable" at any time - but is even more "deplorable" during the deadly virus outbreak.

He said: “We are hugely grateful and thankful to the overwhelming majority of the Thames Valley public who have been complying with the new coronavirus legislation and helping to save lives and being hugely generous and respectful of our officers.

“However these figures show that a minority think it acceptable to assault our officers.

“To spit, cough or bite an officer or emergency service worker is despicable at any time but in the current situation with coronavirus it is even more deplorable.

“As a Force we will not tolerate any assault of our officers or assaults on other emergency service workers, we will fully investigate and we will work closely with the Crown Prosecution to bring the offenders to justice.

“The welfare of our officers and staff is vitally important, anyone who has been subjected to being bitten, spat or coughed at, or if they have been assaulted in another way, is being supported by the force with a comprehensive welfare support plan.”

Craig O’Leary, Chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation added: “Every police officer has a right to go about their duty without fear of assault.

"I echo the chief's words and thank the vast majority of the public of Thames Valley for supporting our officers in the work they do during these difficult times.

“But the assaults on our members and indeed any other emergency service worker are appalling and those that choose to do so will be brought to justice and face the full weight of the law.

“I am happy that the force is supporting officers around coronavirus related assaults which will bring extra piece of mind to our members."