Health Minister Simon Harris has warned that people who are deliberately coughing or spitting at others during the Covid-19 crisis can face criminal sanction as he revealed it has happened to him.
So far two people have been arrested over two separate incidents involving coughing at gardaí.
Mr Harris said a man and a woman approached him as he was walking from Government Buildings to the Department of Health on Tuesday and "thought it was hilariously funny to come up and cough loudly and run off laughing".
He said there was "absolutely nothing funny about it, it was quite pathetic", as he issued a strong rebuke to those engaging in such behaviour.
At a press conference in Government Buildings yesterday, he warned that the full rigours of the law will be used against offenders.
A teenager was arrested for public order offences after he coughed at gardaí who responded to a call about a group of 10 men playing football in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. He has been released without charge.
In Dún Laoghaire, a male teenager was arrested on Tuesday night after coughing at a female gardaí when officers were called to the harbour area of the south Dublin suburb where a number of youths had gathered. He has since been released without charge.
Gardaí are becoming increasingly concerned about the so-called 'TikTok coronavirus challenge', in which people deliberately cough or spit at others, telling them they are infected before posting a video on the TikTok social media app.
Mr Harris said: "Can we please, as people, just look at what's happening in Italy, in the European Union, where we're seeing several hundred people a day dying of a virus that can be deadly to certain people in our population?
"I think, particularly for older people who are being targeted and it seems to be some sort of social media kind of game - but it's not a game, it's disgusting - going on that would target certain people in your community, generally older people and go up and cough in their face, video it, have a laugh and run off.
"Just think of it with your own granny, granddad, mother, father, and your own friends with an underlying condition like cystic fibrosis.
"The Irish people have been absolutely amazing in relation to this national challenge that we're all going through, but anything that takes off in relation to that on social media will have to be dealt with the full rigours of all of the powers that the State has."
He was speaking at the launch of a public information booklet on Covid-19 which will be sent by An Post to every household in the coming days.