COVID-19: 2 to be charged under Infectious Diseases Act, 1 stripped of PR status

People seen wearing face masks at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 on 6 February 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Two Chinese nationals are to be charged under the Infectious Diseases Act, while a Singapore permanent resident has lost his PR status, for obstructing contact tracing efforts and breaching a Stay-Home Notice (SHN), respectively.

Hu Jun, a 38-year-old from Wuhan, and his wife Shi Sha, 36, who resides in Singapore, allegedly gave false information to Ministry of Health (MOH) officials and obstructed the conduct of contact tracing, said an MOH spokesperson on Wednesday (26 February).

Hu arrived in Singapore on 22 January and was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 on 31 January. He has since fully recovered from the infection and was discharged from hospital last Wednesday.

Shi had been identified as a close contact of Hu and was issued a Quarantine Order on 1 February.

Once a COVID-19 case is confirmed, MOH initiates contact tracing to identify individuals who may have been exposed to the case while he or she is symptomatic. Close contacts are monitored closely and may be quarantined, so that they can be identified and treated early if they develop the disease.

“This measure also prevents close contacts from mingling in the community if they become symptomatic, and helps to contain further transmission of COVID-19,” added the MOH spokesperson.

However, according to the ministry, the couple gave false information to MOH officials about their movements and whereabouts from 22-29 January. Shi also provided false information while under quarantine.

MOH was able to establish their true movements through detailed investigations. In view of the “potentially serious repercussions” and the risk they could have posed to public health, MOH served the couple charges on Tuesday.

The case will be heard in court on 28 February. Any person convicted of an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 or to a jail term not exceeding six months, or to both, for the first offence.

Barred from re-entering Singapore

Separately, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) announced on Wednesday that a 45-year-old man has been stripped of his PR status for breaching SHN requirements while in Singapore from 20 to 23 February.

He has also been barred him from re-entering the country.

The SHN was implemented from 18 February as a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of additional imported cases of COVID-19. It is served on Singapore residents, long-term pass holders and foreign employees issued with a work pass, with recent travel history to mainland China in the last 14 days .

Individuals served with the SHN are required to remain in their place of residence at all times for a 14-day period. From Wednesday, the SHN has been extended to those with recent travel history to Daegu and Cheongdo cities in South Korea in the last 14 days.

On 20 February, the subject was served with the SHN when he arrived at Changi Airport as he had travelled to mainland China in the past two weeks. He was briefed on the requirements of the SHN.

However, he failed to respond to phone calls, and was not at his declared place of residence when ICA officers conducted enforcement checks in the days after his return to Singapore.

On 23 February, the subject attempted to leave Singapore via Changi Airport. He was warned that he had breached the requirements of his SHN and could face penalties, but he insisted on departing the country.

In view of the “wilful breach” of his SHN, ICA rejected his application for renewal of his Re-entry Permit, which allows a person to retain his or her PR status while outside of Singapore.

The Government will continue to conduct regular random checks through house visits and phone calls to ensure compliance with the SHN, so that the well-being of the community is not put at risk,” said an ICA spokesperson.

Those who fail to comply with the SHN may, among others, be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act, and have their work passes revoked and be repatriated.

Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said on Thursday that such tough action is necessary as a swift and decisive response is needed to remind the public to cooperate in the current coronavirus outbreak.

He said in a post on his Facebook page, “Some people said that this may be a bit harsh. But the deliberate breaking of the rules, in the current situation, calls for swift and decisive response.