SINGAPORE: Two foreign workers were charged in court on Friday (Apr 17) with leaving their isolation quarters and breaching quarantine orders in the first such cases during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Chinese national Liu Dufeng, 49, was given two counts under the Infectious Diseases Act, while Indian national Vardireddy Nageswara Reddy, 35, was given one charge.
The cases are unrelated and Vardireddy intends to plead guilty, while Liu wants to claim trial to one of the charges. Both men were unrepresented.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that Vardireddy, a work permit holder, was issued a quarantine order on Feb 17, requiring him to be isolated at home from Feb 16 to Feb 20. This period was later extended to noon on Feb 25.
He acknowledged that he understood the contents of the quarantine order, in particular that he could not leave his home for the entire duration, MOH said.
However, he allegedly left his home between 8.10pm and 8.35pm on Feb 24, a day before completing the isolation period.
This was to go to a neighbourhood shopping mall to buy some items, MOH said.
Liu was suspected to be a contact of a COVID-19 case, charge sheets state.
He was issued his quarantine order on Feb 15, ordering him to be isolated at the place he stayed at 45 Genting Road from Feb 12 to Feb 24.
He also acknowledged that he understood the contents of the order and that he could not leave his place of residence for the quarantine period, MOH said.
On Feb 19, Liu relocated to 14 Genting Road to continue his quarantine, under the instructions of his employer, said MOH.
He also allegedly left his residence on Feb 21 to look for a bank at MacPherson Road.
Vardireddy told the court that he intends to plead guilty. Ministry of Health prosecutor Andre Moses Tan said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) will take over the case but is waiting for the outcome of another similar case.
Liu told the court through an interpreter that his company told him to move to a nearby place as there was no space for him in the previous quarters and he was "merely following the company's instructions".
The prosecutor said he was aware of this, but said AGC would have taken this into consideration in its decision to charge him.
MOH said in its statement after the hearing that Liu "had failed to inform his employer that he was not supposed to be relocated during the quarantine period and also failed to seek permission from the director of medical services prior to the relocation".
Both parties will return to court at a later date - Vardireddy for his guilty plea to be taken, and Liu for a pre-trial conference.
The pair are the latest to be charged in court for COVID-19-related offences. Earlier on Friday, a man was charged with breaching his stay-home notice to see a friend, while another man pleaded guilty on Thursday to exposing others to the risk of infection by breaching orders to stay at home.
Under the Act, anyone who has an infectious disease or is suspected to be a case, carrier or contact can be ordered to be detained and isolated in a hospital or any other place for a period of time.
The penalties for leaving an isolation area without permission are up to six months' jail, a maximum S$10,000 fine, or both for a first-time offender.
Repeat offenders face double the jail time and fines.