Man arrested after ‘coughing on shop staff claiming he had Covid-19’

A man (not pictured) was arrested after allegedly coughing on staff after they suspected he was shoplifting (Picture: AAP)

A man claiming he had coronavirus has been arrested after ‘deliberately’ coughing on shop staff while attempting to steal goods.

Officers were called to a store on Dudley High Street, in the Black Country, after several shoppers reported a man spluttering on workers after they confronted him over suspected shoplifting. The man, 57, was arrested on suspicion of theft and assault on Wednesday afternoon.

It is understood the man has mental health concerns, said West Midlands Police. He was taken into custody for questioning and those who affected by the incident have been referred to 111 for support, added the force.

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: ‘The man, who is from Dudley and has suspected mental health issues, has been taken into custody and will be questioned in due course.

Supermarket shelves are empty amid the coronavirus panic (Picture: PA)

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‘Those affected have been given appropriate advice and referred to the non-emergency NHS helpline for further support and guidance.’

It comes as the UK death toll has reached 137 after 29 people in England died in just 24 hours after testing positive for Covid-19. NHS England said the patients were aged between 47 and 96 years old and all had underlying health conditions.

Eight of those fatalities were in the West Midlands. Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust confirmed three deaths, the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust announced two each, while there was one more by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has now reached

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