Man with TB jailed for fleeing from quarantine 3 times

A lady with face mask walking past Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre 2 on Aug 31, 2016.
A lady with face mask walking past Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre 2 on Aug 31, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A 54-year-old man diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis absconded from quarantine three times, a court heard.

Mohamed Zaini Parman even resorted to giving false particulars to police officers to evade going back to isolation.

Yesterday, he was jailed for six months after pleading guilty to two charges: leaving a place of isolation while under treatment under the Infectious Diseases Act, and giving false information to the police.

Three related charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

A district court heard that Zaini was first diagnosed with TB on Jan 3, 2014 at Changi General Hospital (CGH). He was referred to the Tuberculosis Control Unit for treatment, but failed to turn up for his appointment on Jan 13 and remained uncontactable thereafter.

A notice was issued on March 18, requiring him to report for medical examination and treatment, under the Infectious Diseases Act. But, still, he did not comply.

On May 8, he was served with an isolation order, requiring him to be detained and isolated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) until the completion of his treatment. He was taken there that day but absconded from the premises three times. He first left the CDC without permission on May 23, 2014 and was detained and taken back on Jan 24 last year.

However, the very next day, at about 8.30pm, he fled again by climbing out of his ward window.

On June 3 last year, police officers on patrol in Bedok Reservoir Road spotted him trying to avoid them. When asked for his particulars, he gave those of another person. But a staff sergeant recognised him because he had previous convictions.

Zaini was arrested and taken to CGH, and transferred to the CDC the next day. However, just two weeks later, on June 19, he fled again. Ministry of Health officers managed to find him only on March 4 this year.

As they were detaining him, Zaini threw something down from the second-floor corridor. Police later found the object to be a photocopy of another person's identity card, but with Zaini's photo on it.

Medical reports showed that Zaini was still infectious when he absconded on May 23, 2014 and on Jan 25 last year. And he had a high bacterial load before he absconded on June 19 last year. No reason was given for why he wanted to escape.

The maximum punishment for leaving a place of isolation without permission under the Infectious Diseases Act is a $10,000 fine and six months' jail for a first conviction, and a $20,000 fine and 12 months' jail for subsequent ones.

The maximum penalty for giving false information to a public servant is a year's jail and a $5,000 fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Man with TB jailed for fleeing from quarantine 3 times'. Print Edition | Subscribe