Three Hong Kong men who flouted isolation rules brought in to fight the spread of the deadly coronavirus were jailed for up to three months on Monday, in the city’s first such convictions.
The longest term was handed to a homeless man, after he admitted evading mandatory quarantine by falsifying a home address.
Two other men were jailed for 10 days and six weeks respectively, for trying to leave Hong Kong for mainland China while they were subject to 14-day home quarantine.
Magistrates said imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence, criticising the men’s actions as selfish and irresponsible, and adding that they could have undermined the government’s anti-contagion efforts and endangered the community.
A government press release said it welcomed the court’s judgment, while reiterating it would not tolerate any violations of the isolation rules.
As of Monday morning, Hong Kong had recorded 641 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with four related deaths.
All arrivals to the city have been required to undergo compulsory quarantine for 14 days, following government measures introduced on February 8. It is a criminal offence to contravene the order and offenders are subject to a maximum fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,220) and six months’ imprisonment.
Fanling Court heard delivery man Sing Kin Kung-kai was required to enter a 14-day quarantine upon his return from mainland China on March 8.
But when the 31-year-old local resident passed through Shenzhen Bay port that night, he lied to a health officer that he was living at a youth hostel in Yuen Long, to avoid being sent to a quarantine centre.
He was intercepted at the same border control point two days later, when he tried to leave for the mainland to visit relatives. He was subsequently sent to quarantine at Tso Kung Tam Outdoor Recreation Centre in Tsuen Wan, and was charged two weeks later.
He pleaded not guilty to giving false information to an authorised officer when he first appeared at West Kowloon Court on March 23, but opted to plead guilty to the charge on Monday.
The defendant told acting principal magistrate Don So Man-lung he had been without a fixed place of residence since December 2018.
He pleaded for leniency on the grounds that he had tested negative for the coronavirus, and had been asymptomatic before and after the offence.
But So considered immediate imprisonment the only appropriate sentence, blasting the defendant for his “selfish” act.
“Although the defendant might not be a carrier of the virus, its ability to incubate means that nobody can assume they are off the hook,” the magistrate said.
“The defendant put the society in danger and had all along no intention to cooperate with the quarantine requirement. His selfish act might have dealt a blow to the government’s anti-contagion efforts and put them to complete waste.”
Meanwhile at West Kowloon Court, Xie Xong-yue and Wong Yee-keung each pleaded guilty to one summons over contravention to restrictions during quarantine, for leaving their isolation site without reasonable excuse or permission.
The court heard Xie, 37, was issued a 14-day quarantine order following his entry at Shenzhen Bay Control Point on February 8, running to February 21.
He was required to stay at his reported address in Tsuen Wan and banned from leaving Hong Kong.
But immigration officers found him at the same port just four days later on February 12 and intercepted him.
“I wanted to see my sick mother,” he told Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen.
Wong, 41, was similarly accused of breaching his quarantine order, effective from February 10 to 23, after he was intercepted at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge on February 13.
Upon arrest, Wong told police officers that he wanted to visit the mainland for fun because he was bored at home.
Both men, of prior clear records, were subsequently sent to quarantine camps to complete their isolation periods.
Law said health workers were working very hard to contain the outbreak and keep everyone healthy, but the public’s cooperation is needed to fight the outbreak.
“This is very irresponsible behaviour,” he said of the offence.
The magistrate also described Wong’s conduct as “selfish to the extreme”.
Xie and Wong were respectively jailed for 15 days and nine weeks as starting point of sentence, before they were given a one-third discount to credit their guilty pleas.
This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong jails men who flouted Covid-19 quarantine rules first appeared on South China Morning Post