Coronavirus: Jail for man who breached stay-home notice to eat bak kut teh

His conduct is socially reprehensible, says judge, who sentences him to six weeks in jail

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng did not go home immediately after being served the notice. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Alan Tham Xiang Sheng did not go home immediately after being served the notice.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

A man who breached a stay-home notice (SHN) and went out to eat bak kut teh on March 23 amid the coronavirus outbreak was sentenced yesterday to six weeks in jail.

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, who pleaded guilty on April 16 to an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, is the first person to be convicted of exposing others to the risk of infection by breaching an SHN.

Before handing down the sentence yesterday, Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun said Tham's conduct was "socially reprehensible".

Tham, who runs an online sales business, arrived in Singapore from Myanmar on March 23 and was served with an SHN. As part of his notice, the Singaporean was supposed to stay home at all times from then until April 6.

Instead of going straight home to his Woodlands flat, he met his 36-year-old girlfriend at 3.40pm, and the pair went to a foodcourt at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport.

After eating, the woman booked a private-hire car and they went to Peninsula Plaza in North Bridge Road, where Tham visited a money changer. The couple then took another private-hire car and arrived at his home at 6.35pm.

Two hours later, they boarded a public bus for Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre in Woodlands Drive 71, where he had bak kut teh. The court heard that he snapped pictures of the meal and posted them on social media.

After that, the couple went to a nearby FairPrice supermarket, and Tham finally returned home at around 10pm.

On March 25, officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority visited Tham as part of an enforcement check, when he told them that he did not proceed home immediately after being served the SHN. The court heard that he had not been infected by the coronavirus.

Urging the court to impose a sentence of at least 10 to 12 weeks in jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said Tham's offence is a "conduct crime", adding that the law is there "to prohibit socially irresponsible conduct regardless of whether any person is infected by the offender or not".

Tham was represented by lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong from Invictus Law Corporation.

Mr Tan pleaded for his client to be given either the maximum fine of $10,000 or up to two weeks in jail. The lawyer had told the court the SHN did not specify that Tham was supposed to go home immediately after receiving it.

When Tham's case first came to light, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority had said the SHN clearly states that it begins on the day a traveller returns.

Tham is out on bail of $5,000 and was ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on April 30 to begin his jail term.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline 'Jail for man who breached stay-home notice to eat bak kut teh'. Print Edition | Subscribe