Indian-Singaporean Man Sent To Jail For Coughing At Colleagues In 2021 When Positive For COVID

A 64-year-old Singaporean man of Indian origin was given a two-week jail term on Monday after 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, a PTI report said. 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. Tamilselvam had tested positive for COVID-19 and despite being aware of this he coughed at his colleagues deliberately, on one occasion, he even lowered his mask.

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 asked to take an Antigen Rapid Test (ART). A colleague administered the test on Tamilselvam, and he tested positive for COVID-19. He was then instructed to return home and to tell the assistant logistics manager about the result.

However, the assistant logistics manager had already heard about the result from someone else and informed his colleagues as well.

The Coughing Incident

Meanwhile, Tamilselvam did not go back home immediately as he had been instructed. Instead, he went to the company’s logistics office to inform the assistant logistics manager about his COVID-19 test result.

A 40-year-old logistics supervisor asked Tamilselvam to leave the office and made a gesture mimicking kicking him out. As he was walking out he turned around 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 (CCTV).

While 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 clerk was a dialysis patient who suffered from cardiac and renal issues and she administered an ART on herself after being coughed at.

The colleagues were alarmed as they knew he had tested positive for COVID-19. None of them contracted COVID-19 from the incident.

During investigations, Tamilselvam said he had coughed at his colleagues as “a joke”, reported PTI.

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. He further asked for three to four weeks jail for Tamilselvam, saying his actions came at a time when Singapore was experiencing a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases.

For flouting a COVID-19 regulation, he could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to SGD10,000, or both.


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