Man jailed for breaching Covid-19 isolation order to have supper with friend

SINGAPORE - A man who was ordered to isolate at home after developing a cough ‒ in case he had contracted Covid-19 ‒ instead met a friend and went for supper at various locations.

He also asked his friend for money to pay off a fine for a similar offence of flouting Covid-19 rules months before.

On Tuesday, Verner Chua Jun Jie, 22, was jailed for one month and one week after he pleaded guilty to two charges, including putting others at risk of disease.

Two other charges ‒ for flouting Covid-19 rules and failing to report to a supervising officer ‒ were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that Chua, who has a history of theft and drug abuse, was sentenced to reformative training in 2019. Offenders under the scheme are detained in a centre and made to follow a strict regimen that can include foot drills and counselling.

On Dec 8, 2020, Chua's supervisor informed the authorities that Chua had visited a doctor on the evening of Dec 6, but returned to his residence late the next morning.

It was found that Chua, whose occupation was not mentioned, was diagnosed with acute upper respiratory infection when he visited a doctor after developing a cough and sore throat.

Chua did a swab test for the virus at the clinic and was issued three days of medical leave, during which he was required to isolate at home or until a negative Covid-19 test was received, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheng You Duen.

Chua, however, took a taxi after visiting the clinic to Jalan Sultan where he met his friend ‒ named in court documents as Jun Peng ‒ and asked for money to pay a fine for a similar offence, under the Infectious Diseases Act, that was committed in August 2020.

The pair took another taxi to Balestier to have dessert, and then to Geylang for porridge. They boarded a fourth taxi, which took Chua home at around 4am.

Chua received his negative swab test result only on Dec 8, said DPP Cheng.

In a separate offence in September last year, Chua failed to report to the Selarang Halfway House as part of his release on a supervision scheme, which required him to wear an electronic monitoring system tag.

He had been put on this scheme since August last year, which required him to stick to a curfew and report to an officer.

Chua cut off his tag with a pair of scissors to hide his location and threw away the device. The matter was reported to the police and Chua was arrested in April.

Seeking one month and one week's jail for Chua, DPP Cheng said Chua's pattern of offending in the past shows a blatant disregard for the law, adding that for his current offence, Chua had visited public places for frivolous reasons.

Chua, who was not represented, pleaded with District Judge Kessler Soh for leniency and the judge told him to seek a court counsellor and warned him not to reoffend.

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