COVID-19: Man who breached quarantine for prata fined $1,500

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Tay Chun Hsien, 22, breached his Quarantine Order just 30 minutes before it expired for a prata breakfast. (PHOTO: Instagram)
Tay Chun Hsien, 22, breached his Quarantine Order just 30 minutes before it expired for a prata breakfast. (PHOTO: Instagram)

SINGAPORE — A 22-year-old financial advisor who was suspected to have come into contact with COVID-19 was handed a Quarantine Order instructing him to stay home from 19 March till noon on 22 March, a court heard.

But just half an hour before the order’s expiry, Tay Chun Hsien wore a face mask and walked 550m from his home in Choa Chu Kang North to the Kopitiam food court at Yew Tee Square for a prata breakfast.

A Certis Cisco officer who gave Tay a video call to check on his compliance with the Quarantine Order saw the latter having his meal and told him to head back home immediately. Tay complied.

At the State Courts on Wednesday (29 April), Tay was fined $1,500 for the quarantine breach after pleading guilty to a single charge under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Accused was sleepy when he received Quarantine Order: lawyer

Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew asked Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun to impose the sentence that was eventually meted out.

“The accused breached the HQO (Home Quarantine Order) for no good reason; there was no emergency which required the accused to leave his place of residence to have a meal at Yew Tee Square,” said the prosecutor.

“If the accused was hungry, and assuming that he had absolutely no food at home, he could have placed an order for food delivery,” DPP Yew added.

In mitigation, Tay’s lawyer Richard Siaw said his client mistook that his quarantine would end at midnight, instead of noon. The written HQO had stated the timing as “1200 hours”.

“It was early in the morning at about 10am when the Quarantine Order was served on our client at his home. At the material time, he was woken from his sleep and was not at his best form when the advisory was read to him,” said Siaw.

He added that Tay is on long-term medication, with insomnia being a side effect of the drug he is taking.

“Routinely, he could only manage to sleep at about 5am and get up around 2pm. Hence, at the point of time when the Quarantine Order was served on him, our client was likely to be at the deepest stage of sleep,” said Siaw.

The lawyer added, “Our client was very excited that he had faithfully completed the quarantine, albeit mistaken, and left his home just 30 minutes from the actual ending time of the Quarantine Order to have his favourite prata breakfast at the neighbouring coffee shop.”

Tay had also worn a face mask out, even though this was not yet mandatory, said Siaw.

However, DPP Yew noted that the written HQO had been signed by Tay. The requirements of the order, including the expiry time, were clearly written on it, the prosecutor said.

“It was incumbent on the accused to read the HQO, understand all its requirements and comply with all of them. There is nothing to suggest that the accused lacked the capacity to read or understand the HQO,” said DPP Yew.

Nonetheless, the prosecutor noted that Tay had returned home soon after he was told, spent a relatively short time outside his home and did not travel far. Tay also pleaded guilty to his charge and is a first-time offender.

“The sentence we are seeking is a finely calibrated one. We would stress that, at this critical stage in the nation’s fight against COVID-19, everyone has a part to play,” said DPP Yew.

“Persons who are subject to HQOs and other measures to combat COVID-19 must comply with those measures. Strict enforcement action will be taken, and in appropriate cases, prosecution and more deterrent sentences will follow,” he added.

For his offence, Tay could have been fined up to $10,000 and also jailed for up to six months.

Last Thursday (23 April), a man who breached his Stay-Home Notice to eat bak kut teh at a food court was sentenced to six weeks’ jail.

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