Spitting in public in India will be punishable with a fine and a jail term of up to one year, the government has said, as the number of COVID-19 positive cases crossed 12,000 on Thursday.
Spitting is one of the many widespread problems that the country of 1.3 billion has to tackle in its efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
Spitting after chewing tobacco, betel leaf, areca nut and related products is common across India and local authorities in several cities have imposed penalties on such acts for years but in most cases the restrictions were not taken seriously.
There have also been recent incidents of COVID-19 patients spitting at health care workers.
"The virus spreads through droplets so spitting is a dangerous act in the present circumstances and we need to impose the strictest punishment," Home Ministry spokeswoman Punya Srivastava said.
New guidelines issued by the federal Home Ministry recommended that regional governments should impose a strict ban on tobacco that is chewed and not smoked and strictly prohibit spitting.
Refusal to comply with government orders under the Disaster Management Act may result in imprisonment of up to one year or a fine, or both. The exact penalties are set by the regional governments.
India's COVID-19 positive cases reached 12,380 on Thursday with 1,489 recoveries. Of the 414 who died, more than 180 were from the financial hub of Mumbai and the western state of Maharashtra.
The new guidelines were issued on Wednesday after India extended a 21-day nationwide lockdown in its efforts to contain the coronavirus to May 3.
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