Coronavirus: Those who flout stay-home notice will be charged

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also said people who are required to declare their travel history must do so honestly or face severe penalties.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also said people who are required to declare their travel history must do so honestly or face severe penalties. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Shanmugam says authorities will investigate returning residents who act irresponsibly

Those caught flouting rules under the stay-home notice will be charged in court, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam warned in Parliament yesterday.

Citing reports of returning residents who acted irresponsibly by heading out to 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 subsequently posted about going out for bak kut teh on his Facebook page.

The 14-day stay-home notice first kicked in at 11.59pm on Feb 18 for Singaporeans and residents returning from select locations, and was progressively expanded as the coronavirus situation evolved.

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

From 11.59pm last Friday, the notice was 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. First-time 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 had developed respiratory symptoms after a holiday in Italy.

The man was said to have hidden 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 the stay-home notice can be fined and 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 rules under the stay-home notice to the police, who will then follow up on the cases and take action.

 
 

But Mr Shanmugam said strict regulation and strong enforcement is 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."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2020, with the headline 'Those who flout stay-home notice will be charged'. Print Edition | Subscribe