SINGAPORE — Fourteen Vietnamese nationals were fined between $2,500 and $3,500 for COVID-19 breaches, including having a social gathering with others outside of their residence.
Appearing in court, the four women and 10 men mitigated in person, with most saying that they were unfamiliar with Singapore laws and others claiming that they had lost their jobs and were going through a rough patch at the time of the incident.
The 10 men are Nguyen Van Son, 29, who is the main tenant of the three-room unit, Nguyen Xuan Tung, 35, Pham Ngoc Hai, 44, Xuan Ba Luc, 37, Nguyen Huu Thang, 29, Pham Van Duy, 36, Le Xuan Hoang, 29, Nguyen Van Mot, 36, Nguyen Quang Dung, 30, and Duong Van Duc, 31.
The four women are Tran Thi Ha, 29, Vuong Thi Ly, 46, Pham Thi Hong Ngoc, 20, and Dang Thi Hoa, 39.
Each pleaded guilty to one count of meeting individuals outside of their residence for a social purpose on 6 June, four days after Singapore exited its circuit breaker period. Each visitor also had a charge of leaving their household for a non-essential purpose taken into consideration for sentencing.
The group was caught after a female member of the public called the police informing that there was a “dispute” in the Bedok Reservoir Road unit with “shouting inside”.
Nguyen Van Son, as the main tenant, was handed a $3,500 fine while the rest were each given a fine of $2,500.
At the time, Nguyen Van Son, Nguyen Xuan Tung, Pham Ngoc Hai, Tran and Nguyen Quang Dung shared the unit with seven other nationals who were not named in court documents.
Singapore entered a partial lockdown on 7 April to 1 June last year in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 infection. While the country entered the Phase 1 reopening from 2 June, measures that prohibited meeting others outside of one’s residence were still in place.
On 6 June, Nguyen Van Son invited 12 of his friends to his place to hang out. Three of them later arrived at his place.
The remaining visitors went to the house for the purpose of passing items to or collecting them from friends, but stayed beyond the exchange.
Dang Thi Hoa had told Nguyen Xuan Tung, a resident, that she had a headache and was permitted to enter the unit to collect medicine from him. She arrived at night and stayed to chat with the others.
Another resident, Pham Ngoc Hai, had a toothache and permitted his cousin, Vuong Thi Ly, to enter the unit to pass him medicine for the pain. However Vuong Thi Ly stayed to chat with others.
Xuan Ba Luc came to the unit to collect his belongings from Nguyen Van Son but stayed to chat with others.
Another resident, Nguyen Quang Dung, invited a friend, Nguyen Huu Thang, into the unit to pass him cash and noodles. Nguyen Huu Thang stayed on thereafter to chat.
In mitigation for his case, Nguyen Quang Dung said that he had come to Singapore on 15 September 2019 but had his work pass terminated on 15 April last year. As he did not have a place to stay, he found refuge at Nguyen Van Son’s unit while he waited for a “rescue flight” to return to Vietnam.
Speaking through an interpreter, Nguyen Quang Dung said, “The wait was very long and I don’t have enough money for food at that time, I posted on Facebook that I did not have money for food so my friend Thang came to give me noodles and money for me to sustain during the waiting time.”
Tran Thi Ha, the only female resident at the unit, allowed entry to Pham Van Duy and Duong Van Duc to pass her medicine and fruits respectively. Both arrived and stayed to chat.
Pham Thi Hong Ngoc and Le Xuan Hoang had gone to the unit that same night to check if it was available for rental. However when they arrived and saw the social gathering, they decided to stay and chat with the others.
Nguyen Van Mot had gone over to the unit with food and drink to join the gathering.
When the group was busted by the police, a total of 22 persons were inside the unit.
In mitigation, five said that they had experienced language barriers in Singapore and did not fully understand COVID-19 regulations in place.
Nguyen Van Son and Nguyen Huu Thang said that their families had been wrecked by floods in their home country. “The situation is very bad, my father passed away and my wife left me and I have to support my mother and children”, Nguyen Van Son said. Nguyen Huu Thang said he had been unemployed for nine months.
In handing out the fines, District Judge Ong Luan Tze said, “I understand the difficulties the pandemic brought on all of you. It may not seem very serious to simply visit a friend but you have to understand that we were and are still battling a very serious health threat and a simple visit especially one involving a group setting, could have very serious consequences not only for you and your friends but for the wider community at large.”
A first offender can be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000 for breaching COVID-19 regulations.
Stay in the know on-the-go: Join Yahoo Singapore's Telegram channel at http://t.me/YahooSingapore
Other Singapore stories: