SINGAPORE — A woman who visited her friend, shopped at Northpoint City, and spent time with her boyfriend and his family while on MC was jailed for 13 days on Tuesday (5 October).
This was despite Janani Kalaychelvam's lawyer pleading for a 14-day short detention order (SDO) for her client. An SDO involves incarceration of the offender, but will not result in a criminal record once the term is spent.
Janani, 24, had pleaded guilty in September to breaching the terms of her medical certificate, which required her to stay home after she was diagnosed with an acute upper respiratory infection on 30 January.
Two charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for her sentencing.
Defence counsel argues for short detention order
During her sentencing hearing, Janani submitted a letter of apology to the court, saying that she did not understand the seriousness of her actions at the time of the offences. The aspiring teacher said she now regretted how her negligence had placed others at risk.
Her lawyer, Tan Jun Yin, said that Janani wants to be a teacher in the Tamil language, and that a prison record would mar her prospects. The lawyer said that an SDO would achieve a similar deterrent and punitive effect without the criminal record.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Susanna Yim argued for a two-week jail term, citing the heightened need for general deterrence against actions that endangered public health.
District Judge Christopher Goh said that he has reviewed similar cases and accepted the prosecution's sentencing submissions as appropriate. He adjusted the prosecution's proposed sentence downwards by a day in light of Janani's mitigating factors.
Went out immediately after being diagnosed
Janani had visited OneDoctors Family Clinic along Yishun Ring Road on 30 January for a sore throat, cough and shortness of breath, which she had been experiencing for a few days. She was seen by a doctor and was diagnosed with an acute upper respiratory infection.
The doctor asked Janani to return to the clinic to take a COVID-19 swab test on 1 February, as the clinic had stopped collecting swabs that evening.
Janani was issued with a five-day medical certificate from 30 January to 3 February, instead of the usual three days, since she would only be doing her swab two days after seeing the doctor. She was informed that she would not be allowed to leave home during this period except to seek medical treatment and to do her swab test, which she acknowledged.
However, upon leaving the clinic, Janani took a taxi to her friend’s house for dinner and remained there until about 3.50am on 31 January.
Left home to buy shirt for boyfriend
On the evening of 1 February, Janani left home and travelled in a Grab car to Northpoint City to shop for a shirt for her boyfriend at Uniqlo. She then proceeded to her boyfriend’s residence, where she remained until the early hours of 2 February. Her boyfriend and his mother were also present.
Janani did not tell anyone about her MC and did not wear a mask while she was there. She only returned home, via a Grab car, at about 1.16am on 2 February. In total, she left home for about five hours and 29 minutes.
According to her charge sheet, Janani again left her home on 3 February and travelled in a Grab car to Apple Orchard Road to shop before returning home in a taxi.
On 2 February, a doctor from OneDoctors Family Clinic informed the Ministry of Health that Janani had not attended her swab test. It was eventually discovered that Janani did not have COVID-19 at the time of the offences.
For breaching her medical certificate terms, she could have been jailed up to six months, and or fined up to $10,000.
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