SINGAPORE — A man who breached his Stay-Home Notice (SHN) to celebrate his birthday with his wife and talk about their relationship in her car was jailed for seven days on Thursday (24 June).
Bai Fan, a 38-year-old United States citizen and Singapore permanent resident, had arrived in Singapore on 19 September last year from China after transiting in Hong Kong for 19 hours, amid a spike in COVID-19 in Hong Kong.
He intended to celebrate his birthday, on 20 September, with his family, but was denied the chance when he was told to serve his SHN in a dedicated facility.
On 20 September, as he was serving his SHN - which was slated from 19 September to 3 October at Fairmont Singapore hotel along Bras Basah Road - he told his wife to buy him a birthday cake, told her what flavour he wanted, before he snuck out of his room to spend time with her in her car.
Bai pleaded guilty to exposing others to the risk of infection by his presence in a public place, with his lawyer S S Dhillon telling the court in mitigation that his client had not been "mentally prepared" to serve an SHN as he had made checks before arriving in Singapore. His client had also tested negative for COVID-19 in China before his flight.
Apart from his proceeded charge, Bai admitted to another charge of the same nature, which was taken into consideration for his sentencing. This was for leaving his hotel room to meet his wife between 7.46pm and 9.26pm on the first day of his SHN.
Circumvented barricades to meet wife
After arriving in Singapore, Bai was referred to an arrival duty officer in Changi Airport as he wanted to serve his 14-day SHN at home instead of at a dedicated facility.
His request was denied as, given the rise in cases in Hong Kong then, all those who arrived from the city were required to stay in a dedicated facility. He was issued an SHN and told its requirements, including staying at his accommodation at all times.
When he arrived at his hotel, Bai was reminded of his requirements by hotel staff.
On the second day of his SHN, which was his birthday, Bai spoke to his wife and told her to get a birthday cake for him, informing her of what cake and flavour he wanted. He then arranged to meet her near the hotel in her car.
He left his room at 7.05pm and made way from the south tower of the hotel to the north tower, where non-SHN guests were staying. Even though the entrance to the bridge between both towers were barricaded with furniture to prevent guests from crossing, Bai circumvented them to enter north tower, took the lift to driveway and met his wife in vicinity.
He boarded her car and she drove to the basement of the hotel carpark where they had a long talk about their relationship.
She drove him back to the hotel and he alighted at the driveway. He went back to his room using the same route he had left, and returned at about 12.08am.
Unprepared for SHN due to Hong Kong transit
In mitigation, Dhillon told the court that the border measures then were that, if travellers had arrived directly from China instead of first transiting at Hong Kong, they would not be required to serve an SHN. Bai had made the relevant checks then, Dhillon added.
"However because his flight transited in Hong Kong - that is a technicality issue - he was told that he had to serve an SHN and he was totally unprepared for this," said Dhillon, adding that Bai would not have taken the flight if he knew he had to serve an SHN, as his work situation "did not allow him to have that luxury of a 14-day hotel stay".
Dhillon, who asked for a fine, said that his client was masked at all time outside of his room, and that he had tested negative for COVID-19 before his flight.
However District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan pointed out that he was aware of the SHN. "Yet he blatantly disregarded that requirement and proceeded to meet his wife, for what for his birthday," noted the judge.
When Dhillon replied that his client was not mentally prepared, DJ Shaiffudin said, "Nobody is prepared, Mr Dhillon.
"Given the nature of this pandemic and the virus, it is imperative, it is essential, it is critical that he comply strictly. Everyone must comply strictly, that is the whole point."
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh, who sought a jail term of 10 days', described Bai as someone who thought his judgment of COVID-19 rules superseded Singapore's SHN requirements.
Bai had also moved through areas with human traffic in order to reach his wife, DPP Koh pointed out.
He could have been jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000 for breaching his SHN.
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