A THUG weaponised coronavirus by coughing and spitting at police officers as they responded to a Tesco worker being attacked in Leigh. 

Yob Andrew Tilley also kicked the officers during the attack, in The Broadway, on Saturday at about 7pm. 

The officers had just responded to reports that a shop worker had been assaulted at the Tesco Express nearby.

Andrew Tilley, 28, of Pall Mall, Leigh, was arrested and later appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

He admitted two counts of assault by beating of an emergency worker and one count of common assault on an emergency worker, assault by beating, drink driving, criminal damage, driving with no insurance or a licence and failing to stop.

He is due to be sentenced on April 21.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells said: "Unbelievably, this weekend we have seen suspects using the Covid-19 virus as a weapon against officers – who, in these incredibly challenging times continue in their duty to keep the community safe.

"In just a 12-hour period, we had officers who had been kicked, spat and coughed at after responding to emergency calls from shop workers, who were also just doing their job.

"Fortunately incidents like these remain rare but anyone who decides to assault an emergency worker, by any means, will be arrested, will be brought into custody and will be put before a court.

"I’m pleased to say that the majority of people we have spoken to – be it on patrol, engaging with the community or responding to calls for help – have welcomed, thanked and embraced us and recognised the fact that we all need to work together.

"It’s everyone’s job to stay at home to keep our communities safe, protect the NHS and save lives.

"We will continue, as always, to keep you safe, to help you and to catch anyone determined in breaking the law."

Separately, on Saturday morning, staff at Tesco Express in High Street, Ongar, were abused by a man who drove off with stolen alcohol.

While making an arrest, officers reported they were coughed at and bitten.

A 25-year-old man from Ongar arrested on suspicion of theft, common assault on an emergency worker, common assault, criminal damage, failing to stop and possession of cannabis has been released on bail until Wednesday April 8.

Sergeant Stephen Taylor, Essex Police Federation chairman, said: "Our role is to help people and keep them safe and there are simply no excuses for assaulting officers. To be spat and coughed at during these unprecedented times is not acceptable.

"This week a man has found himself in court for assaulting emergency responders and he faces a likely custodial sentence at court next month."