Train passengers in heated row over 'disgusting' cough amid coronavirus fears

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter
The man removed his glasses and headphones when the accused woman appeared to deliberately cough in his direction in retaliation to the initial accusation. (Andy Park)

Footage has emerged of a fiery argument on a train in Australia after a man accused the woman opposite him of coughing without covering her mouth.

With coronavirus fears creating a tense environment, the man and woman were debating her cough when a third passenger, ABC News reporter Andy Park, began filming.

“I did not open my mouth when I coughed, I coughed inside my mouth,” the woman is heard saying while on board a quiet carriage bound for Central Station in Sydney on Monday.

The man then mutters “that’s disgusting” as he places a pair of headphones back on his head.

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Things take an ugly turn when the woman then appears to purposely cough in the direction of the man with her mouth open, sparking an angry reaction.

“Are you serious? Did you just cough at me?” he says, before removing his sunglasses and taking out his phone to either film or photograph her.

In response, the woman proceeds to claim she did not have coronavirus, in what seems an attempt to reassure the man he would not catch anything from her.

She then tells the man he is a “bully”.

“Bully? I asked you politely to cover your mouth when you coughed,” he responds.

“The advice from the government has been to cover your mouth when you cough.”

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The woman tells him she doesn’t want to hear “any of this” and that he is in a quiet carriage so should “shut up”.

After the footage was shared to Twitter on Monday morning, it drew a mixed response from social media users.

Some sided with the woman and argued the man was being too precious, while others agreed with him in labelling her behaviour disgusting.

“That dude needs to lock himself inside if he’s that worried,” one person wrote in a reply to the video.

“My two-year-old knows to cover her mouth and cough into her elbow,” another said.

“How rude! The world has gone mad! Not everyone would have been so forgiving,” a third wrote.

Park told Yahoo News Australia he did not see the alleged cough that led to the man’s initial complaint, but could understand why people were particularly on edge given current coronavirus fears.

‘Everybody was wondering what the ruckus was about’

“The woman involved allegedly coughed, I’m not entirely sure if she covered her mouth or not, I didn’t see that, but the gentleman sitting opposite her took offence and then began asking her – quite politely – to cover her mouth,” he said.

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“She refused and he got quite upset, and the pair went at it for a couple of minutes. Everybody in the carriage was listening and wondering what all the ruckus was about.”

Park said the man’s concern was understandable, given people were currently nervous about using public transport. However he thought both of them could perhaps could have handled themselves better.

“It didn’t seem to me like these two were going about the pleasantries of health precautions very well,” he said.

“To me it says that these sorts of things escalate so quickly and so irrationally, and everybody in the carriage was shocked that something as simple as a cough turned into a war of words.”