SINGAPORE: Despite knowing that social gatherings were prohibited during the "circuit breaker", a woman let a man into her flat to study and met another friend to pass her a birthday gift.
For one count of allowing a person not from her household to enter her flat, and another of meeting others for a social gathering, 25-year-old Malaysian Mika She Yuan Wei was fined S$3,700 on Thursday (Sep 24). A third charge was taken into consideration.
The authorities were alerted to the offences after the man, 26-year-old Malaysian Chiew Chin Wooi, posted photographs with captions online stating that he had left home while on medical leave to take an examination.
He is at large after leaving Singapore on Jul 17 and failing to return to be charged alongside She last month.
READ: Arrest warrant issued for man who failed to return to Singapore to face COVID-19-related charges
She told the court that she had allowed Chiew, her friend and fellow auditor, to study in her flat as he was a Malaysian staying alone in Singapore during the circuit breaker when "everywhere (was) closed".
The court heard that Chiew had asked She if he could go to her flat to take an online Certified Practising Accountant examination in her house.
He said he wanted to do so as his WiFi connection was weaker where he stayed. He went to She's house at about 8.40am on May 8, leaving at 4.50pm and saying he was going to see a doctor.
He obtained a 5-day medical certificate later that evening for a cough and posted a photo of his MC online, which She saw.
The next day, Chiew went to She's flat again, at 9.35am, to study together and take the second part of his online exam.
They left together at about noon to buy lunch, before returning to eat it in the flat. After Chiew finished his exam at about 4pm that day, She arranged to meet another colleague, 26-year-old Ang Hui Shian, to pass her a birthday present.
The trio met at Punggol Waterway Point mall and went to the supermarket together to buy groceries, before buying dinner to go.
The authorities discovered She's offences following investigations into Chiew's breach of COVID-19 rules.
THERE WAS NO REAL NEED TO LET HIM IN: PROSECUTOR
Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew asked for a fine of S$4,000, saying that She had allowed Chiew to enter her flat two days in a row, spending many hours together in an enclosed space.
On May 9, the second day of his visit, despite knowing that Chiew had seen a doctor and had a medical certificate, she let him in anyway.
"There was no real need for her to let Chiew into the flat," said the prosecutor.
The judge added that the offence would have gone undetected had it not been for the fact that Chiew posted some photos online.
She, who was not represented, stressed that even though she had gone to buy lunch and shop for groceries with others, they had not been physically together at all times, and had observed safe distancing measures.
"I acknowledge that I breached the COVID-19 rules," she said. "I take the full responsibility, but I do want to highlight the reason."
She said Chiew was a Malaysian staying alone in Singapore.
"I JUST WANTED TO EXTEND A HELPING HAND"
"During the circuit breaker, everywhere is closed, and I know that he has to take an important exam. At the point when he called me, he told me he has no stable WiFi to do ... his important exam, and I assumed I was the only help available to him during the circuit breaker," she said.
She said she knew at the back of her mind that it was during the circuit breaker but wanted to just "extend a helping hand to him".
"Also, I considered the point that it's during COVID-19, everyone has to take precautionary measures," she said, adding that they stayed more than a metre apart from each other in her flat.
She also said she knew he had a medical certificate, but thought it was for a leg sprain. He did not appear sick to her.
In response, the prosecutor said there were risks to allowing Chiew into an enclosed space with her, notwithstanding social distancing measures.
"If you look at her conduct from May 8 to May 9, it can be seen that she paid rather little regard to social distancing," he said, adding that She had let Chiew enter her flat twice and arranged to meet another person.
District Judge Prem Raj said he would have been prepared to exercise greater leniency towards her if she had faced only one charge. However, the offences spanned two days.
He said he just did not understand why she had to meet someone else to pass her a birthday gift when she knew of the need for precautions, and the fact that the country was in the thick of the COVID-19 period.
However, he bore in mind her very early plea of guilt and allowed her to pay her fine in instalments.
For each count of breaking a COVID-19 regulation, she could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both.
An arrest warrant for Chiew was issued last month, after he failed to turn up to receive charges alongside She. The prosecutor said at the time that he had not returned to Singapore, without specifying which country he was in.