Over 6,600 fines issued for flouting Covid-19 rules

People queue to collect reusable masks at mask vending machines at the Toa Payoh bus interchange. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Over 6,600 fines have been issued to people who broke rules meant to keep people here safe from Covid-19, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) on Friday.

Since the start of the outbreak, the authorities have taken various steps to tackle the virus.

Between Feb 1 and 29, about 3,460,000 surgical masks, provided by the Government, were distributed by the People's Association to households through collection centres at community centres and residents' committee centres. Three more mask distribution exercises followed, with households collecting over 9,950,000 reusable masks from the Temasek Foundation and the Government as of Thursday.

Another measure taken was placing those at a higher risk of infection, such as travellers entering Singapore, under a stay-home notice.

As of Thursday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority had issued more than 89,000 such notices. About 9,000 of them remained active as of Thursday.

But many have chosen to flout the measures put in place to keep the virus at bay. The ministry said that as of June 25, more than 1,100 fines for offences related to mask-wearing and more than 5,500 fines for the breaching of safe distancing measures had been issued.

The Ministry of Manpower also said that between May 1 and June 25, it had revoked the work passes of 140 people for breaching circuit breaker measures, stay-home notices or quarantine orders.

Of these, 42 work pass holders were caught outside their residences while under stay-home notices or quarantine orders.

The remaining 98 people were found eating, drinking and gathering in groups in public during the circuit breaker, at various locations such as dormitories, East Coast Park and Robertson Quay. Six of them were permanently banned from working in Singapore as a result.

On Friday, lawyer Gino Hardial Singh told The Sunday Times that the penalties might seem harsh, but were necessary. "The security and safety of the people in Singapore are of paramount importance, given the virulent outbreak of the pandemic.

"Their actions could have potentially endangered the lives of many. These people have essentially disregarded the rules in favour of their own personal pursuits, thereby putting many more at risk," he said, adding that the penalties would serve as a deterrent to others.

Another lawyer, Mr Raphael Louis, said the combination of three factors - an unprecedented situation, high risk of infection and devastating consequences of widespread infection - meant that the punishment had to be severe.

"Singapore is a small country, it's very crowded. If someone breaches the measures, it can spread very quickly," he said of the virus.

MEWR urged members of the public to continue observing safe distancing measures and wearing masks outside their homes, even as Singapore gradually reopens following the circuit breaker.

Noting that the reduction in social interactions had led to a significant decline in community cases during the circuit breaker period, the ministry said that with activities resuming in phase two, the number of community cases has increased. "It is more important than ever that everyone continues to practise social responsibility and stay vigilant to contain the spread of Covid-19."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2020, with the headline Over 6,600 fines issued for flouting Covid-19 rules. Subscribe