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Defying social-distancing norms in Singapore now means fine up to Rs 5 lakh or jail time

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New Delhi: Singapore has a message for people defying social-distancing norms amid the Covid-19 pandemic — pay a fine of up to $10,000 (Singapore Dollar, just over Rs 5 lakh) or serve up to six months in jail.

The punishment also applies to people returning from abroad who defy the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The Singapore government has now empowered quarantine and social-distancing requirements with penal provisions as it battles a growing number of infections. According to a report by Singapore-based media outlet Channel News Asia, the country has recorded 802 Covid-19 cases.

On Sunday, the city-state reported its third Covid-19 death, a 70-year-old man with “no recent travel history to affected countries and regions”.

Last Wednesday, Singapore witnessed its largest single-day spike in cases with 73 people testing positive. Another 70 tested positive within a day Saturday.

Getting strict in light of pandemic

The new penalties were notified on 26 March under the country’s Infectious Diseases Act.

The regulations on “safe distancing” seek to “limit gatherings outside of work and school to 10 persons or fewer, and ensure that physical distancing of at least one metre is maintained in settings where interactions are non-transient”.

A second section deals with “stay home notices” that the government has issued to “all travellers, including Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long Term Pass holders returning to Singapore” beginning 20 March. The notice requires recipients to stay home for 14 days.

Any violation on either count will make offenders “liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding [Singapore dollars] $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both”, the health ministry has said.

Singapore, a country of 60 lakh people that has so far been lauded for containing the spread of Covid-19 despite being one of the first countries outside of China to report incidence, is taking some strict measures to contain the pandemic’s spread.

On Sunday, a Singapore citizen’s passport was cancelled because he violated the ‘stay home notice’.

However, most schools remain open, with the Singapore education ministry saying that students will be allowed to study from home one day a week from April even as it states that “our desire is to still keep our schools open most days of the week”.

Singapore follows a colour-coded framework called ‘Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON)’ to assess the spread of a disease, which dictates its reactions.

The DORSCON spectrum runs from green (least serious stage) to yellow, orange and red (the most serious stage where disease has highest impact). Currently, Singapore assesses its situation vis-a-vis Covid-19 to be orange.

The status was also orange during the SARS outbreak in the early noughties, which, according to the Singapore government, means “the disease was severe and spread easily, but still contained.”

Many countries around the world have imposed strict punishments to enforce social-distancing norms that are believed to be key to preventing the spread of coronavirus, including Argentina and Jordan. According to a 20 March report, around 50,000 people were booked over eight days in Italy, the second epicentre of Covid-19 after China, for violating quarantine rules and faced prison time or fines.


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