Man who breached Covid-19 stay-home notice to eat bak kut teh convicted; DPP argues for 10- to 12-week jail term

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, is the first person to be convicted of exposing others to the risk of infection by breaching an SHN. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A man who breached a stay-home notice (SHN) and travelled out of his home to eat bak kut teh on March 23 was convicted on Thursday (April 16) after pleading guilty to an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, is the first person to be convicted of exposing others to the risk of infection by breaching an SHN.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin urged the court to sentence Tham to at least 10 to 12 weeks' jail to "reflect the seriousness of the offence" and deter others from committing a similar act.

He will be sentenced on April 23.

Tham, who runs an online sales business, was one of two Singaporeans charged last week with breaching their SHN in separate incidents amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The other man - Palanivelu Ramasamy, 48 - was charged with an offence under the Infectious Diseases (Covid-19 Stay Orders) Regulations 2020.

On Thursday, the DPP told the court that Tham 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 to April 6.

Tham signed on a slip to acknowledge that he had received the SHN and to confirm that he was aware he could be prosecuted if he failed to comply with the notice.

But instead of going straight home to his Woodlands flat, he met up with his 36-year-old girlfriend at 3.40pm and the pair went to a food court 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 they arrived at his home at 6.35pm.

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

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DPP Chin said: "Following on social media, the accused was quickly chastised by his friends who reminded him that he should not be out in public during his SHN period which commences on his date of arrival...Despite this, the accused did not immediately return home."

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

On March 25, ICA officers visited Tham as part of an enforcement check where he told them that he did not proceed home immediately after being served the SHN.

"Investigations revealed that Tham's activities that day included visits to food centres and a mall, for a duration of approximately 6½ hours.

"Despite being issued with an SHN which required Tham to remain in his place of residence for a 14- day period, Tham exposed others to the risk of infection through his irresponsible conduct," MOH and ICA said in the statement.

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

On Thursday, Mr Tan pleaded for his client to be given the maximum fine of $10,000. The counsel said the SHN did not specify that Tham was supposed go home immediately after receiving it.

The lawyer added that the SHN also did not "impose any express movement restrictions on Alan before he reached home".

Mr Tan also stressed that Tham, who was not infected with the coronavirus, had not been "gallivanting".

For breaching an SHN, offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

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