Two men charged in separate incidents of causing public alarm by allegedly spitting and coughing in public while claiming to be infected with COVID-19 have been refused bail in the ACT Magistrates Court on Saturday.
Magistrate Peter Morrison described the allegations against one man as serious and "bizarre conduct".
Gionata Carnino, 38, of no fixed address, and David Peter Topley, 57, of Hackett, appeared separately with their hands handcuffed behind their backs while wearing facial masks.
The court was told Mr Carnino, a dual Australian and Italian citizen, returned from Italy about March 11 and was quarantined in a Queensland hotel until Wednesday, March 25. He then travelled to Canberra on a Virgin flight to see his children.
About 8pm on Friday, Mr Carnino is alleged to have approached reception staff at the YHA youth hostel in Civic. Documents tendered in court alleged an argument broke out between Mr Carnino and two reception staff after Mr Carnino became agitated over the room rates.
Police alleged Mr Carnino, who was intoxicated, leaned over the reception counter and started to cough towards the two staff members, who shut a security shutter which Mr Carnino continued to cough through.
Mr Carnino then told the staff members he had coronavirus and produced paperwork purporting to be issued by the government in relation to coronavirus, court documents said.
Prosecutor Ryan Roberts told the court the offence was serious and carried a maximum 10-year imprisonment term and was "very upsetting behaviour in very trying times". Mr Morrison said the allegations were "bizarre conduct".
Mr Carnino's defence lawyer told the court Mr Carnino denied the allegations, insisting he did not indicate he had coronavirus nor cough on the hostel's staff.
Mr Morrison said the significant risk of the offences being repeated could not be controlled by any bail conditions and the risks could be better managed in custody. Mr Carnino was remanded in custody until later in April.
Mr Topley was arrested on Friday afternoon after allegedly spitting on tables outside a Northbourne Avenue restaurant while claiming to have been infected with coronavirus, police documents tendered to the court said.
A member of the restaurant's staff approached Mr Topley and told him he could not sit at the restaurant's tables due to government restrictions and he was not allowed to smoke in the area, the documents said.
Mr Topley is then alleged to have collected nasal mucus at the back of his throat before spitting multiple times on tables and on the ground and telling the restaurant staff member he would need to be tested for coronavirus.
Mr Roberts told the court there could be little confidence Mr Topley would comply with bail conditions as he was already the subject of three good behaviour orders and other bail conditions.
Mr Topley's defence lawyer told the court Mr Topley denied the allegations of spitting and saying he had coronavirus. Mr Topley instead claimed to have muttered to himself after sneezing as he left that he would need to get himself tested for the virus.
Mr Morrison refused bail saying there was a risk of Mr Topley reoffending if released. Mr Topley was remanded in custody until later in March.
Both Mr Carnino and Mr Topley were marked as prisoners at risk.
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you're looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.