SINGAPORE: A man who posted photos of a bak kut teh meal he had at a hawker centre while he was on a stay-home notice was charged on Tuesday (Apr 7) under the Infectious Diseases Act.
Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, is accused of exposing others to the risk of infection when he had reason to suspect that he was a case, carrier or contact of a disease.
He returned to Singapore from Myanmar on Mar 23 this year and was issued a 14-day stay-home notice, requiring him to stay home at all times until Apr 6.
According to the charge sheet, Tham knew he was a suspected contact of a person with COVID-19 and was subjected to the stay-home notice.
Court documents said that he allegedly exposed others to the risk of infection by appearing in the following public places: Kopitiam at Changi Airport Terminal 3, Peninsula Plaza, Kampung Admiralty Foodfare Hawker Centre and NTUC FairPrice Kampung Admiralty in Block 676, Woodlands Drive 71.
Tham, who was unrepresented, turned up in court wearing a mask a day after completing his stay-home notice. He is the first person to be charged with this specific offence in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
When District Judge Adam Nakhoda asked what he intended to do, Tham said: "I plead guilty to this, because I already explained everything but it's like ... they don't take what I'm trying to say."
The judge set a date for him to plead guilty later this month and adjourned the case.
THE TIMELINE OF WHAT ALLEGEDLY HAPPENED
Soon after Tham arrived in Singapore, he posted photos of a pork rib soup meal on Facebook, with the caption: "Come back to Singapore must eat our local food."
The Mar 24 post drew flak from commenters, who warned him of the consequences of flouting a stay-home notice, and the post was deleted soon after.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said a day later in Parliament on Mar 25 that people who breach stay-home notices will be charged in court.
He referred to Tham's case and said he had asked for it to be investigated.
ICA and the Ministry of Health said in a press release after the charging that a team of officers visited Tham on Mar 25 and asked him about his whereabouts on Mar 23, the day he returned to Singapore and was served a stay-home notice.
"Tham admitted that he had not proceeded home immediately but had visited several places on the said date," said the two agencies.
Investigations found that Tham allegedly visited food centres and a mall for about six-and-a-half hours.
If convicted, Tham could be jailed for up to six months, fined a maximum S$10,000, or both.
Since his alleged flouting of his stay-home notice, the Ministry of Health has put into effect new regulations regarding stay-home notices, under the Infectious Diseases (COVID-19 - Stay Orders) Regulations 2020 which kicked in on Mar 26.
Earlier on Tuesday, a man was charged under these new regulations for breaching his stay-home notice to deliver newspapers.
He also faces a maximum six-month jail term, a fine of up to S$10,000, or both.
ICA said it will not hesitate to take firm enforcement action against those who fail to comply with the stay-home notice regulations.
"Besides prosecuting offenders under the Infectious Diseases Act and its regulations, ICA may also cancel their immigration facilities, where applicable," it added.
The authority reminded all travellers to ensure that they submit complete and accurate health and travel declarations via the SG Arrival Card.
Making a false or misleading declaration can lead to prosecution, and foreigners who commit such offences can face further administrative actions such as having their permits and passes revoked or their validity shortened.
Editor's note: An earlier version of the story said Tham allegedly went to Koufu Food Centre at Changi Airport Terminal 3. The charge sheet was incorrect; he went to Kopitiam.