SINGAPORE: A woman who was charged with not wearing a mask in public was handed more charges on Tuesday (May 25) for breaking COVID-19 regulations, and remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for psychiatric observation.
Phoon Chiu Yoke, 53, was given five charges for contravening COVID-19 regulations by not wearing a mask and a sixth charge for exposing others to the risk of infection when she had reason to suspect that she was a carrier of COVID-19 in June last year.
According to charge sheets, Phoon was serving a stay-home notice at Marina Bay Sands Hotel on Jun 28 last year when she left her room and loitered around various places in the hotel. She is also accused of not wearing a mask while at the hotel.
On Dec 2 last year, she also allegedly failed to wear a mask while at Clarke Quay Central, according to the charge sheets.
On May 15 this year, she did not wear a mask at Marina Bay Sands, and allegedly repeated this action at Bras Basah Complex three days later.
The latest charge Phoon received was for failing to wear a mask outside the State Courts on May 24, where she had a trial scheduled for not wearing a mask at a hawker centre last year.
The prosecutor on Tuesday asked for Phoon to be remanded at IMH for two weeks. Phoon, who was unrepresented and appeared via video link from her place of remand with her nose showing above her mask, requested for bail.
"I am a professional," she said. "I was an ex-Naval officer and I have a good conduct in my history. I have residence in Singapore and I see no reason why I need to be remand(ed)."
District Judge Adam Nakhoda replied that the investigating officer had put up a report stating that Phoon had not complied with the requirement to wear a mask in public numerous times.
When asked what she had to say to that, Phoon said: "Well, Your Honour, I am not familiar with this new (requirement) that requires me to wear a mask."
She said she had returned from Scotland from a holiday of six to seven weeks around Jun 24 last year and had never heard of a regulation to put on a mask.
"I have never read any information that I have to wear a mask and so that's why I did not do so," she said.
She said she was informed about the rule only on May 15, without specifying the year, by a police officer who investigated her.
"I tried to abide by this regulation, but this is something that is very abnormal," she said. "In defence I'd like to state that none of these breaches was done intentionally, but all because I have very little information of this regulation."
She claimed she had "almost never seen any campaign advertisement" asking citizens to wear masks.
After the judge ordered her to be remanded at IMH for two weeks, Phoon asked for an exemption, but the judge told her that he had heard her explanation and would be having her remanded.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
Phoon was arrested on Tuesday (May 25), a day after she appeared outside the State Courts for her trial without wearing a mask. She later put one on when asked to do so by a security officer.
Phoon arrived in Singapore from the United Kingdom on Jun 28 last year, said the police and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in a joint news release.
As she was required to serve her stay-home notice at a dedicated facility until Jul 12, she was brought to a hotel in the downtown area after immigration clearance.
Phoon failed to wear a mask in public on at least four occasions, including outside the State Courts at 1 Havelock Square on Monday, the authorities said.
"Investigations into the woman’s alleged involvement in the several cases of failing to wear a mask in public places are ongoing," said the police and ICA.
"Such conduct poses a real risk to public health given the current COVID-19 situation."
The police also said they have consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers and will seek a court order to remand Phoon for psychiatric assessment.
PHOON INTERVIEWED BY POLICE ON MAY 15
Phoon was interviewed by the police on May 15 in their investigations into these incidents. Despite this, she re-offended, the police said in the news release.
If found not wearing a mask or not wearing one properly in public, she faces a fine of up to S$10,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both.
If convicted of failing to comply with stay-home notice requirements, she faces similar punishments – a fine of up to S$10,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both.
"Members of the public are advised to take the prevailing safe distancing measures seriously," said the police and ICA, adding that people should cooperate with safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers and comply with their instructions.