Man left twice to return to India while isolated for COVID-19

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Essential workers wait to take nasal swab tests to detect the COVID-19 novel coronavirus before returning to work in Singapore on June 10, 2020. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Essential workers wait to take nasal swab tests to detect the COVID-19 novel coronavirus before returning to work in Singapore on June 10, 2020. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — While pending a COVID-19 swab test, an Indian national who was supposed to wait for his test results at a hospital left the premises, intending to take a flight back to his home country. 

Balachandran Parthiban, 25, who tested positive for the virus on 24 May last year, took a taxi to Changi Airport before he was found by police officers. 

Even after he was isolated in his dormitory, Parthiban, who is on an employment pass, again left the residence in an attempt to return to India. As he was unable to buy a flight ticket, he sought refuge at a relative's flat. 

The relative called Parthiban's supervisor after realising that he had left his dormitory without permission. 

Parthiban was remanded at the Institute of Mental Health on Friday (14 May) after he pleaded guilty to two breaches under the Infectious Diseases Act for exposing others to the risk of infection and contravening the order prohibiting residents of the dormitory from leaving the area. Two other charges will be considered for his sentencing. 

His lawyer, Cory Wong, asked for Parthiban to be assessed in a pre-sentencing report, as the worker was previously diagnosed with adjustment disorder in June last year. The report will determine if there was any contributory link between Parthiban's psychiatric condition and his offending.

He is currently on anti-psychotic medication. 

Told repeatedly not to leave testing area

On 23 May last year, Parthiban reported sick at his dormitory with a fever and sore throat. He suspected that he had COVID-19, as others in his dormitory had tested positive. 

He was conveyed via ambulance to the Singapore General Hospital to get tested at about 12.45pm. 

After being swabbed, at about 1.40pm, Parthiban was transferred to the "Fever Screening Area" at SGH’s multi-storey carpark to wait for his results. 

While there, Parthiban was told repeatedly not to leave until his results were ready, and that he should inform someone if he wanted to go anywhere. Parthiban responded "ok ok". 

The swab test result revealed that he was indeed infected with COVID-19. At about 5.35pm, Parthiban left the area with his two haversacks and passport, intending to buy a flight ticket to return to India. He did not inform anyone of his intent. 

Parthiban walked towards Kim Tian Road in Tiong Bahru and then headed to Block 79 Chay Yan Street towards Yong Siak Street, covering about 2.1km. 

After reaching Yong Siak Street, Parthiban boarded a public bus and travelled for two stops before alighting.

At Lower Delta Road, Parthiban flagged down a taxi and travelled to Terminal 1 of Changi Airport where he tried to buy a ticket. 

When the airport staff did not sell the ticket to him, Parthiban loitered around Terminal 1 of Changi International Airport for about four hours until he was found by police officers. He was then returned to SGH.

The taxi driver who fetched Parthiban was issued a home quarantine order for two weeks and could not work. The cabby eventually tested negative. 

Went to relative's home

On 8 June last year, after being diagnosed to be no longer infectious, Parthiban was discharged from SGH and sent back to the dormitory to serve a 14-day leave of absence. He was prohibited from leaving. 

On 16 June, at about 5.50am, Parthiban packed two bags of belongings, took his passport and left for the airport. He was informed by counter staff that he could not buy a flight ticket. He then slept at the airport.  

The next day, he went to his relative's residence in Tampines and revealed that he had left his dormitory without permission. 

The relative called Parthiban's supervisor. He was escorted back to the dormitory by police officers who arrived at noon. 

Parthiban will be sentenced at a later date. He faces a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $10,000 or both for his breaches. 

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