In Singapore, security officer jailed for leaving home to borrow money after testing positive for Covid-19

For breaking Covid-19 regulations, Burhanto Rejo was jailed for five months and two weeks. ― TODAY file pic
For breaking Covid-19 regulations, Burhanto Rejo was jailed for five months and two weeks. ― TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 15 — When Burhanto Rejo contracted Covid-19 from the foreign worker dormitory he worked at, he did not stay home, instead going to a Hougang licensed moneylender to borrow money for the upcoming Hari Raya Puasa festivities.

He then lied in a visitor declaration form at moneylender Goldstar Credit that he did not have flu-like symptoms and was feeling well.

Yesterday (October 14), the security officer was jailed for five months and two weeks for his actions during the circuit breaker period last year when people had to stay home and movement were restricted due to Covid-19.

The 56-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to one count of breaking Covid-19 laws by leaving his place of accommodation without a reasonable excuse. Another cheating charge was taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that Burhanto began working at the dormitory along Tanah Merah Coast Road in 2018. It became a Covid-19 cluster in May last year, at a time when there was an explosion in coronavirus cases among foreign worker dormitories.

He developed a fever, chest pain, loss of appetite and taste, and had blurred vision on May 18, 2020. He went to Yishun Polyclinic four days later and told the doctor that he had had a cough and fever for the past five days.

He also said that he still went to work because his fever would die down after he took paracetamol pills. His highest temperature reading was 38.4°C, and he also said that he did not have close contact with anybody infected with Covid-19.

After examining him, the doctor diagnosed him with an upper respiratory tract infection. She told him she needed to order a Covid-19 swab test, electrocardiogram and full blood count test for him.

She also issued him a five-day medical certificate (MC) and told him to stay home as required under the law. He acknowledged this.

‘Really, ah?’

He left the polyclinic and sent a photograph of the MC to his supervisor while on the way back to his Yishun flat, and the supervisor told him to stay home.

The next day, the head of Yishun Polyclinic called Burhanto to tell him that he had tested positive for Covid-19. When he said that he was feeling well, the doctor asked him to wait at home for an ambulance to pick him up soon, and reiterated that he had to isolate himself and stay home.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ng Jun Chong told the court that Burhanto “sounded shocked” to hear this and asked the doctor: “Really, ah?”

A few hours later, a call centre agent for the Medical Operations Task Force called Burhanto and told him about his hospital admission details, as well as the items he had to take along.

After learning that an ambulance would arrive in a few hours, he grew worried that his family would not have money to spend for Hari Raya Puasa the next day.

He then asked his niece to book a private-hire Grab ride for him to Hougang Mall, before walking to The Midtown mixed development and entering the Goldstar Credit branch there.

He did not have a fever when a loan officer took his temperature, and he falsely declared that he was feeling well because he was afraid he could not enter the branch.

When he was waiting for his turn, his sister called to say that an ambulance was in front of their house.

He then took a taxi back home, receiving several calls from Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as well as the ambulance driver asking for his location and when he would get back.

As a result of his actions, Goldstar Credit spent S$600 (RM1,849) to disinfect its premises. The loan officer, private-hire car driver and taxi driver were quarantined, while several of Burhanto's relatives were also issued two-week home quarantine orders.

DPP Ng sought six months’ jail, noting that Burhanto had spent more than an hour outdoors and gone to a number of public places.

The prosecutor also said there was “no real necessity or urgency” for him to borrow money, adding that the family could have contacted relatives, friends or the authorities for help.

It was fortunate that evidence did not show he had infected others with Covid-19, but this was not a mitigating factor, DPP Ng added.

In mitigation, Burhanto — who did not have a lawyer — said that he was the sole breadwinner for his family and has a nine-year-old son. He promised not to repeat his offence and asked to serve his sentence two months later to continue working and saving money for his relatives.

The judge agreed that he could start his jail term on November 22.

For leaving his home without a reasonable excuse, he could have been jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or both. ― TODAY

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