Covid-19: Jail for Singapore PR who breached quarantine by leaving hotel room to meet wife for his birthday

Bai Fan leaving the State Courts on May 27, 2021. — TODAY pic
Bai Fan leaving the State Courts on May 27, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, June 24 — When he arrived in Singapore from China, Bai Fan learned that he had to serve a 14-day stay-home notice as he had transited through Hong Kong, where Covid-19 cases were on the rise at the time.

Bai was then ordered to stay in his Fairmont Hotel room — a dedicated facility for those serving stay-home notices — in order to stem the spread of imported Covid-19 cases.

However, he left the following day to meet his wife to celebrate his birthday, crossing through publicly accessible areas of the hotel to do so.

The couple also had a long talk about their relationship in the family car before he returned to his room.

For his actions in September last year, the American who is a Singapore permanent resident (PR) was jailed for seven days on Thursday (June 24).

The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to one charge under the Infectious Diseases (Covid-19 — Stay Orders) Regulations 2020. Another charge was taken into consideration for sentencing.

His wife is also a PR but was not serving a stay-home notice, the authorities previously said.

What happened

Bai arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 1 on Sept 19 last year from mainland China after spending 19 hours in transit in Hong Kong, the court heard.

He was then referred to the arrival duty office, as he wanted to serve his stay-home notice at home instead of at a dedicated facility.

An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer issued a stay-home notice to him, which stated that he was assessed to be at risk of having been exposed to Covid-19.

The officer also told him to stay in his room for the duration of the order — Sept 19 to Oct 3, including both dates — and that he could call the stay-home notice hotline if he needed any help.

When Bai arrived at the hotel along Bras Basah Road, hotel employees gave him a room key at the south tower of the building, which was dedicated to people serving their stay-home notice.

The staff members also reminded him to stay in the room and told him to read an information sheet that was prepared by the Singapore Tourism Board. The sheet contained reminders to remain in the room, not to leave even to buy food and essentials, and choose delivery options.

However, later that day, his wife picked him up from the hotel at around 7.45pm. They were together in the car in the vicinity until about 9.30pm.

Court documents did not reveal more details.

The next day, he spoke to his wife on the phone and told her to get a birthday cake for him, as it was his birthday that day.

At about 7.05pm, Bai managed to get past the doors, which were barricaded by furniture to prevent people from crossing from tower to tower, and entered the north tower.

He then took the lift to the hotel driveway and met his wife in the vicinity. She later drove them to a nearby basement car park where they had a long talk about their relationship.

They spent about five hours outside before she drove him back. He returned to his room after midnight.

He was ‘mentally unprepared’

In mitigation, Bai’s lawyer SS Dhillon argued that his client had been “mentally totally unprepared” to serve a stay-home notice. This was because those arriving in Singapore from mainland China did not have to serve one then.

“Had he known he had to serve it, he would not have taken the flight. His work situation did not allow him the luxury of a 14-day hotel stay,” Mr Dhillon said.

District Judge Shaifuddin Saruwan told the lawyer that this was irrelevant. “Given the nature of the pandemic, it’s imperative, essential, critical that he comply strictly (with Covid-19 requirements). Everyone must comply strictly. That’s the point.”

Dhillon also told the court that Bai had returned to Singapore to spend time with his family and had worn a face mask at all times when out of the room.

For breaching Covid-19 laws, Bai could have been jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or both. — TODAY

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