Woman who had Covid-19 given 12 weeks' jail for exposing others to infection risk

SINGAPORE – A woman who exposed others to the risk of Covid-19 infection after returning to Singapore from Britain last year was on Monday (Aug 30) sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail.

Esther Tan Ling Ying, who arrived here in March last year, tested positive for Covid-19 a week later.

On Aug 16 this year, District Judge Ng Peng Hong convicted the 24-year-old Singaporean of an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, after a trial.

Tan began her bachelor’s degree course in acting in London in 2017, but was back here last year before completing her studies, following an advisory by the Singapore Government to return.

Prior to leaving Britain, she had flu-like symptoms and had lost her sense of taste and smell.

She did not see a doctor there and instead chose to self-isolate until the day of her departure from London.

Tan still had a blocked nose and no sense of taste or smell when she landed at Changi Airport Terminal 1 on March 23 last year.

She was issued a stay-home notice (SHN) and an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer told her to go home immediately. She cleared immigration at about 2.40pm.

But before heading home, she and her parents ate at the foodcourt at Terminal 1, spending about 30 minutes there.

They also took an MRT train to Clementi, before Tan and her mother went to the Clementi Family and Aesthetic Clinic in Clementi Avenue 3, near their home.

Tan, who saw the doctor around 5.30pm that day, then lied about her travel history, to get some medicine.

The doctor testified that Tan had told her she was studying at a drama school, but had claimed to have been in Singapore since January last year, having returned for Chinese New Year.

She said Tan claimed to not have gone back to Britain because her parents were concerned about the virus, and had said she “dodged a bullet”.

Tan tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30 last year.

During the trial, the court heard that Tan claimed she did not suspect she had the virus, and that the SHN instructions were confusing.

In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim rubbished this, saying she was fully aware of the crucial points of the SHN and knew that she was a potential case of Covid-19.

On Monday, DPP Lim urged the court to sentence Tan to the maximum six months’ jail, stressing that her conduct had been “egregious” and she had lied to a doctor about her travel history.

Defence lawyer Tan Cheng Kiong pleaded for a lighter sentence and told Judge Ng that his client had committed the offence before she was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The lawyer also said there was no evidence to show that Tan was a carrier of the virus when she visited places, including the foodcourt and clinic.

For exposing others to the risk of infection of Covid-19, an offender can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

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