SINGAPORE - Two British nationals who flouted safe distancing measures during the circuit breaker period by gathering with others in Robertson Quay were fined on Tuesday (Sept 22).
Alfred Jon Veloso Waring, 35, and Olagunju Daniel Olalekan Olasunkanmi, 31, appeared in court to face one charge of breaching circuit breaker measures each.
Olasunkanmi was fined $8,500, while Waring was fined $8,000. Both were represented by Mr Ramachandran Shiever Subramaniam.
The court heard that on May 16, while circuit breaker measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 were still in effect, the two men met each other near Limoncello @ Robertson Quay restaurant for “chatting and drinks”.
Earlier that day, at about 3.47pm, Olasunkanmi had just finished a walk in the area and greeted a woman who was sitting on the steps near Rivergate Condominium. They chatted until about 3.50pm before he left to buy drinks.
He returned with a plastic bag containing drinks and sat down with her. Another woman who had a child with her was also with them.
At about 4.53pm, Waring arrived at the steps and joined the group.
Both men left the group and returned to buy beer and water at various points for about two hours until 6.45pm when they were approached by safe distancing ambassadors.
The ambassadors found that both men and others in the group either had their masks pulled down or were not wearing them. They also did not maintain a distance of at least one metre from each other.
In a reply to email queries from the Straits Times, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the ministry has revoked the work passes of both Waring and Olasunkanmi for breaching circuit breaker measures. In addition, both men have been permanently banned from working in Singapore.
"All work pass holders in Singapore must abide by the law, regardless of nationality and pass type," the spokesperson added. "MOM will not hesitate to take action against those who have been convicted of breaking the law, including revoking their work passes."
Seven others were also fined in June for meeting up in Robertson Quay on the same day. They are Neil Gordon Buchan, 30; James Titus Beatt, 33; Joseph William Poynter, 35; Perry Scott Blair, 37; Michael Czerny, 45; Jeffrey George Brown, 52; and Bao Nguyen Brown, 40.
Six of them also had their work passes revoked by the Ministry of Manpower and were banned from working here again. The ministry did not name them.
Buchan, Beatt, Poynter and Blair were each fined $9,000, while Czerny, Brown and Bao were each fined $8,000.
This group is not linked to Olasunkanmi and Waring's case.
Pictures of crowds along Robertson Quay circulated on social media in May, showing people failing to keep a distance of 1m from one another at the riverside dining enclave.
Most of the people pictured were not wearing masks, while some had their masks lowered as they chatted with one another.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority issued a directive to some restaurants in Robertson Quay on May 17, barring them from selling takeaway alcohol, as such sales contributed to more people gathering in the area.
A Ministry of Manpower statement on June 1 said foreigners who are work pass holders in Singapore must abide by the country's laws and that those convicted of offences risked having their work passes revoked and facing an employment ban.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Timotheus Koh and Colin Ng asked for a fine of at least $9,000 for each of them, noting that their social interaction with others was lengthy - about one hour and 51 minutes for Waring, and two hours and 45 minutes for Olasunkanmi.
DPP Ng urged the court to give sufficient weight to the fact that the two committed the act in "full view of the public" and were "undaunted and undeterred" by the fact that their actions would cause alarm to those adhering to safe distancing measures. He added that their actions suggested "that our laws can be blatantly disregarded".
It was also pointed out by DPP Ng that while the pair remained in one location, the social interaction occurred over a longer period of time.
Mr Subramaniam sought a fine of $7,000 each for the pair. He argued that Waring had no intention to breach the rules but the gathering was a "chance meeting" and this is his first brush with the law. He further noted that Waring was only present in one location and thus there was no further risk of spreading the disease to multiple locations.
Regarding Olasunkanmi, Mr Subramaniam argued that he lives alone and was confined in isolation during the circuit breaker period. Olasunkanmi also attempted to seek therapy for emotional support during the period.
So when he chanced upon his friends, he "lingered", said the lawyer.
District Judge Eddy Tham sentenced Olasunkanmi to 17 days in jail if he is unable to pay the fine and Waring to 16 days imprisonment in default of the fine.
For flouting circuit breaker regulations, first-time offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000.