THIS elderly couple have said they are too terrified to go to daily Mass after a stranger deliberately coughed into their masked faces as part of a sick new craze called the ‘Corona Challenge’.
The Co Kildare couple believe they are victims of a prank which has spread rapidly across the globe on the social media site, TikTok.
The so-called ‘Corona Challenge’ involves preying on vulnerable people by trying to frighten them about catching the deadly virus.
Law enforcers have warned offenders can be fined or even jailed for such offences.
The couple – who are too scared to be identified – reveal the incident happened on Thursday afternoon in Naas, Co. Kildare.
They had been wearing face masks to try to protect themselves from the disease.
“We had enjoyed the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and it’s a huge church in Naas and we are well scattered out, about 15 of us,” the 82-year-old grandfather told the Sunday World.
“We said a few prayers. Then on the way home this fellow came along on the footpath. He was about six foot or more and was in his late 20s or early 30s. He jumped off his feet and coughed right into our faces as we were passing him. We were traumatised at the time.“
My wife is very upset and still shaken about it. I’m sorry I didn’t hit him but I’m only 5ft 2ins. Just to draw attention to what he did.”
The couple reported the incident to local gardaí.
“We are now afraid to go to Mass and will now watch it instead on the RTÉ News online service at 10 o’clock every morning,” explains the man, who is involved in a local scheme to try to get elderly people back working in the community.
“We now drive to the likes of Greystones to walk on the beach as we don’t want to run into this guy or anyone like him again.”
He adds: “I’m not worried anymore about it but I’m worried for my wife. She is shaking and still in shock about it. I’m not overly religious, I’d got to Mass every Sunday, but she goes to Mass every day as she’s quite devout but now she won’t go to church.”
They have heard from others about the so-called ‘Corona Challenge’ whereby strangers target passers by by deliberately coughing at them.
“Children are deliberately doing it because they know how terrified we are of the thing,” he stresses.
“I’m nearly 83 and have had a good life. My wife is 72. But we want to live our lives in peace and enjoy what’s left of it.
“I’d say to the likes of these people ‘cop yourself on’. Would they like someone to do that to their parents?.”
Social media sites are full or reports of similar incidents.
“My mother-in-law said she was talking to a woman today and the same thing happened to her yesterday,” said one woman on Facebook.
“Some people are horrible. I’d hit them.”
Another woman wrote it also happened to her family.
“Somebody did that to my man in the shops,” she fumed. “It’s not a laugh. It really is serious.”
A Garda spokesperson told the Sunday World members of the public should report such activity to An Garda Síochána.
“This activity could amount to an offence under the Public Order Actor Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
”Both categories can incur fines and also prison sentences. Internet giant TikTok has tried to clamp down on people taking part in various ‘Corona’ or ‘Coronavirus’ challenges and posting videos of their actions. They have ranged from social media influencers licking toilet seats to others loudly coughing and ringing emergency services to see what their response is.
“While we encourage our users to have respectful conversations about the subjects that matter to them, we remove deliberate attempts to deceive the public,” a spokesman said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has played down the idea of a coronavirus lockdown and said Ireland is following the South Korea model of social distancing, social isolation and contact tracing.
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