Singapore: A 64-year-old Singaporean of Indian origin was sentenced to two weeks' jail on Monday on pleading guilty to one count of breaching a COVID-19 regulation by failing to wear a mask that covered his nose and mouth while outside his home in 2021.
Despite knowing that he had just tested positive for COVID-19, Tamilselvam Ramaiya deliberately coughed at his colleagues, lowering his mask to do so on one occasion.
Another two charges were taken into consideration during sentencing, according to a Channel News Asia report.
The court heard that Tamilselvam was working as a cleaner for Leong Hup Singapore at the time.
After reporting for work at 6 Senoko Way on the morning of Oct 18, 2021, he told the assistant logistics manager that he was feeling unwell. He was told to take an antigen rapid test (ART).
A colleague administered the test on Tamilselvam, and he tested positive for COVID-19.
Given the result, he was instructed to return home and to tell the assistant logistics manager about the result.
The assistant logistics manager, who learnt of the positive test result from someone else, told his other colleagues about it.
However, Tamilselvam did not head home immediately. Instead, he went to the company's logistics office to inform the assistant logistics manager about his COVID-19 test result.
Tamilselvam entered the office with a company driver who did not know about the positive test result.
The first victim, a 40-year-old logistics supervisor, told the driver not to go near Tamilselvam. The supervisor also asked Tamilselvam to leave the office and made a gesture mimicking kicking him out.
Tamilselvam walked to the door but turned back to cough twice into the office with his mask on.
The supervisor closed the office door, but Tamilselvam opened it. He lowered his mask to uncover his nose and mouth and coughed into the office a third time before leaving.
The act was captured on the closed-circuit television camera in the enclosed air-conditioned office.
While Tamilselvam was leaving, he passed by a window with a 56-year-old clerk on the other side of the glass in the logistics office.
He opened the window, coughed in her direction with his mask on, and said "kena COVID, kena COVID", using the Malay word "kena" to describe someone on the receiving end.
The colleagues who were coughed at were alarmed as they knew Tamilselvam had tested positive for COVID-19. The clerk was a dialysis patient who suffered from cardiac and renal issues and she administered an ART on herself after being coughed at.
None of them contracted COVID-19 from the incident.
After this, Tamilselvam went to a polyclinic where he was given another swab test and a three-day medical certificate. He was also told to quarantine himself at home.
The assistant logistics manager of the company lodged a police report over the incident.
During investigations, Tamilselvam said he had coughed at his colleagues as "a joke". He said he did not treat his positive result seriously and visited the polyclinic to confirm if he had contracted COVID-19.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana said it was "no laughing matter" and that Tamilselvam had disobeyed express instructions to leave the premises, returning instead to cough deliberately at his colleagues.
She asked for three to four weeks' jail, saying his actions came at a time when Singapore was experiencing a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases that led to the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions.
For flouting a COVID-19 regulation, he could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to SGD10,000, or both.