SINGAPORE - A man who breached a stay-home notice (SHN) and travelled out of his home to eat bak kut teh on March 23 amid the coronavirus outbreak was sentenced on Thursday (April 23) to six weeks' jail.
Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, who pleaded guilty on April 16 to an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, was the first person to be convicted of exposing others to the risk of infection by breaching an SHN.
Before handing down the sentence on Thursday, Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun said that 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.
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 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 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 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 where 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’ jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said that just because Tham is not Covid-19 positive does not automatically place him in the low category of harm.
The DPP said that 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 is 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’ jail.
The lawyer had told the court that the SHN did not specify that Tham was supposed go home immediately after receiving it.
On Thursday, Mr Tan said that the SHN “does not impose any movement restrictions before going home, such as you must take away your meal and are not allowed to eat at the food outlet itself”.
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.
For committing the offence under the Act, offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.