COVID-19: Fine or jail for not observing at least 1-metre social distancing in public

Tables and chairs are taped up to encourage social distancing, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at a food court here on 25 March, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Those who intentionally sit on a seat or stand in a queue less than one metre away from another person in public venues can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed a maximum of six months, or both.

Such penalties also apply to those who intentionally sit on a fixed seat that is demarcated as not to be occupied in public venues, as well as those who take part in events held anywhere here with more than 10 participants.

These and other social distancing regulations, along with penalties, were included in one of several updates made by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to the Infectious Diseases Act.

They were published in the electronic version of the government gazette at 11pm on Thursday (26 March), less than an hour before all entertainment venues were to be closed till end-April.

The same penalties also apply to those who flout other social distancing regulations during the period between Friday and 30 April, inclusive of both dates. Such regulations do not apply to proceedings of the Parliament or the courts.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that all events, regardless of size, must be deferred or cancelled, while social gatherings are to be limited to 10 people or fewer at any time during this period.

Public venues – such as retail malls, museums, and attractions – where contact is more transient, may remain open but only with precautionary measures in place.

Separately, all centre-based tuition and enrichment classes have been suspended to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools. All religious services and congregations have also been suspended.

The scope of violation for the regulations includes:

For organisers of unprohibited events

  • allowing more than 10 people to be present at or take part in that event

  • not ensuring one-metre distance between participants where any food or beverage is served during the event; not ensuring food items is served in individual portions in a manner that minimises the time and extent that people may interact when eating

  • not ensuring natural ventilation of the premises during the event

  • not putting in place temperature monitoring measures

  • not obtaining the contacts of every person attending the event

  • not refusing entry to the premises to any person who displays symptoms of a fever

This excludes any event that is conducted for business at a workplace or providing education in an educational institution.

For public venue owners, organisers

  • not ensuring that each seat is at least one metre away from any other seat at all times OR

  • not ensuring that alternate fixed seats are demarcated as not to be occupied

  • not applying practices that ensure that every person in the queue or area is at least one metre away from any other person in the queue or area

For owners of places of attraction, shopping centres

  • not ensuring that the number of customers and other people within the premises does not at any time exceed the prescribed threshold

  • not ensuring that those within the premises do not intentionally gather in a group of more than 10 within the premises

  • not ensuring that there is a distance of at least one metre between people in a group;

  • not ensuring that where there are two or more groups of people within the premises, there is a distance of at least one metre between groups

Among the 55 places of attraction that must comply are the Arts House, Asian Civilisations Museum, Chinatown Heritage Centre, Singapore Zoological Gardens, Esplanade and Gardens By The Bay.

For owners of places of worship, funeral parlours

  • not ensuring that less than 10 people are in any room at any time

  • not ensuring that each seat is at least one metre away from any other seat at all times OR

  • not ensuring that alternate fixed seats are demarcated as not to be occupied

  • not applying practices that ensure that every person in the queue or area is at least one metre away from any other person in the queue or area

In an earlier update made by the MOH to the Act, patients who are issued a five-day medical leave by a medical practitioner certifying that they have acute respiratory symptoms are not allowed to leave their homes starting on the day the certificate is issued.

Similarly, those who do not comply and leave their homes during the five-day period will too face a maximum fine of $10,000 or a maximum jail term of six months, or both. They can only leave their homes to seek medical attention.

The same penalties apply to anyone who flouts the 14-day stay-home notice by leaving the place of accommodation or residence they are serving the notice in.

Of the 683 COVID-19 cases here, 172 have fully recovered. 18 patients remain in the intensive care unit while two – a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man – have died.

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