Parliament: Those who flout Covid-19 stay-home notices will be investigated and charged, says Shanmugam

Mr Shanmugam highlighted a report of a Singaporean returning from Myanmar who was issued with a stay-home notice, and later posted about going out for bak kut teh. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Offenders who are caught flouting stay-home rules will be charged in court, warned Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament on Wednesday (March 25).

Citing reports of returning residents acting irresponsibly by heading out to parties or social gatherings, Mr Shanmugam said the authorities will investigate such cases.

"We cannot allow such behaviour. So I have given very clear instructions, where these cases are verified to be true, we will charge in court," he said in his reply to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC).

In sounding this warning, the minister brought up anecdotes of recent returnees from the United Kingdom heading out to parties, bars, clubs and other social gatherings while they were under the stay-home notice.

He also highlighted a report of a Singaporean returning from Myanmar who was issued with the notice and who subsequently posted about going out for bak kut teh on his Facebook page.

The 14-day stay-home notice first kicked in on Feb 18 for Singaporeans and residents returning from select locations, and was progressively expanded as the coronavirus situation evolved.

Those under the notice are not allowed to leave their homes at all, and should avoid visitors and monitor their health closely.

After 11.59pm last Friday, the notices were extended to those returning from all countries and regions.

"There is a wider duty that each of us owes to control the spread of Covid-19, and really not to endanger others and expose them to infection,"said Mr Shanmugam.

The Health Ministry will use new regulations under the Infectious Diseases Act to enforce stay-home notices, he added.

Offenders can be jailed up to six months, fined up to $10,000 or both.

Mr Shanmugam also said people who are required to declare their travel history must do so honestly, or face severe penalties.

He raised as an example an alleged case of a man who developed respiratory symptoms after a holiday in Italy. He was said to have hid his symptoms and travel history in order to return to Singapore, where he was later found to have Covid-19.

"If this is true, the conduct is highly irresponsible," said Mr Shanmugam, noting that the individual would have done so knowing he was endangering others.

He should have instead declared his symptoms so he could be separated from other passengers, the minister added.

Those who lie in order to avoid stay-home notices can be jailed up to two years under the Penal Code, or jailed up to a year and fined up to $4,000, or both, under the Immigration Act.

He called on members of the public to report any information on those who flout stay-home rules to the police, who will follow up on the cases and take action.

But Mr Shanmugam said strict regulation and strong enforcement are not enough if people continue to insist on being irresponsible.

"All Singaporeans have to do our part, exercise social responsibility, protect ourselves, friends, family, fellow citizens," he said.

The vast majority of Singaporeans are responsible and have come together and acted admirably, he added.

"But, there will always be a few who are irresponsible in every society, and they risk undoing our efforts, and put other people's lives at risk."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.