Safe-distancing enforcement officers can enter homes without warrants to check compliance with COVID-19 rules: URA
SINGAPORE: Safe-distancing enforcement officers can enter, inspect and search "various premises, including residences", without a warrant to check that COVID-19 regulations are being complied with, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Monday (Aug 2).
The authority issued the clarification after actor Nick Mikhail posted videos on social media, detailing an inspection at his home by police officers and URA officers, who he initially described as being from the National Environment Agency (NEA).
In a seven-and-a-half-minute video, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Instagram, Mr Nick Mikhail questioned why the officers entered his home without a warrant or a court order.
He said he was not at home at the time and his wife, who was resting at home, let the officers in. He also asked why a male officer had escorted his wife into another room, even though there was a female officer in the house at the time.
A video captured by a CCTV camera was also uploaded to his Instagram account, showing officers in a house. The video has been viewed more than 60,000 times as of Monday night.
In its clarification, URA said it has contacted Mr Nick Mikhail to "address his concerns".
The authority said officers were responding to “repeated complaints” from residents of the estate that some homes, including Mr Nick Mikhail's, were "having gatherings with more than the permitted number of visitors".
"There were also complaints about the noise generated from the alleged gatherings," added URA.
During Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), group sizes for social gatherings are limited to two people. There is also be a cap of two distinct visitors per household per day.
“In response to the feedback, officers from different agencies had been deployed to the estate to check for potential infringements of the COVID-19 regulations as well as noise,” URA said.
“Safe-distancing enforcement officers are empowered to enter, inspect and search various premises, including residences, without a warrant, to check whether the COVID-19 regulations are being complied with.
“Nonetheless, officers will calibrate their approach for each premises, based on the circumstances of each case.”
URA also provided its account of the inspection of Mr Nick Mikhail's home. On Saturday, six officers - comprising three safe-distancing enforcement officers from URA and three police officers - conducted joint enforcement checks on a few residences in the estate, including Mr Nick Mikhail's, said the authority.
“Upon arrival at Mr Nick Mikhail’s residence, the officers observed that the gate was wide open and that the lights in the house were turned on," added URA.
“They also spotted two cars parked outside the residence, and thus proceeded to ascertain whether there were any visitors in the unit, and if the numbers were within permissible limits.”
The authority said the officers knocked on the door of the house and identified themselves. They explained the purpose of their visit after a woman opened the door.
"She agreed to allow the officers entry, and escorted them around the house to facilitate their checks," said URA.
“All three of URA’s safe-distancing enforcement officers, one of whom is female, followed her in a single file for the inspection, and were mostly in each other’s line of sight.
“Towards the end of the inspection, the female occupant went to retrieve her IC from the next room, with one of the safe-distancing enforcement officers following after to take down the details.
“A police officer, and the female safe-distancing enforcement officer joined them in the next room shortly after.”
URA said that the inspection was completed in less than 10 minutes and that the officers left to inspect other homes in the area after making sure that nobody else was in Mr Nick Mikhail’s house.
“The safe-distancing enforcement officers and police officers were polite towards the female occupant and treated her with respect throughout the inspection," said URA.