22-year-old fined for breaching quarantine, says he thought it ended at 12am not 12pm

SINGAPORE: A 22-year-old man was fined S$1,500 on Wednesday (Apr 29) for breaching a quarantine order by leaving his house half an hour before it ended.

Tay Chun Hsien, a financial adviser with AIA, thought his quarantine order ended at 12am instead of 12pm, his lawyer told the court.

The court heard that Tay was suspected to be a contact of COVID-19 and was given an order to be isolated in his flat between Mar 19 and 12pm on Mar 22.

It was issued to him in a written order, which Tay signed to acknowledge receiving, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew.

The date and time of the quarantine period was in bold and underlined, and the order stated the penalties that Tay could face if he failed to comply with it.

At about 11.30am on Mar 22, Tay left his flat and walked to a food court at Yew Tee Square to eat. He walked for seven minutes to the mall and bought a meal, which he ate inside the food court.

At about 11.40am, a Certis CISCO security officer assigned to check that Tay was complying with the home quarantine order made a video call to Tay’s phone to check if he was home.

Tay answered the call while having his meal of roti prata and the CISCO officer realised that Tay was not at home.

Tay explained that he had left his home to buy food as he was hungry, and went home immediately when told to do so.

The officer made another video call to Tay at 12.05pm and Tay answered, confirming that he had just arrived at his block. The officer called him again three minutes later and confirmed that Tay had arrived home.

Tay pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching his quarantine order.

The prosecutor asked for a S$1,500 fine, noting that Tay was a first-time offender and had pleaded guilty early.

He said the risk of tranmission in this case was low, as Tay spent a relatively short time outside his home and did not travel far.

However, he said Tay had breached his home quarantine order “for no good reason”, and there was no emergency requiring him to leave his home.

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

Tay’s lawyer said his client misread the timing of the end of his quarantine period and thought it was 12am.

He said this was an inadvertent and genuine mistake, as Tay is on long-term medication that causes him to feel anxiety and have difficulty sleeping.

When the order was served on Tay, he was probably “not as alert as he should have been, did not pay as much attention as regards to the ending time and made a very silly mistake”, said the lawyer.

He added that his client is law-abiding and that this offence was out of character and a one-time mistake that would be a painful one for him.

For breaching his quarantine order, Tay could have been jailed up to six months, fined a maximum S$10,000, or both.

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