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A Singaporean of Indian origin sent to jail for breaching a COVID-19 regulation by not wearing a mask covering his nose and mouth n 2021. File photo

Singaporean of Indian origin jailed for coughing at colleagues after he got Covid

Tamilselvam told the police he had coughed at his colleagues as a joke but the deputy public prosecutor Sruthi Boppana said it was "no laughing matter"

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A Singaporean of Indian origin was sentenced to two weeks jail on Monday (September 18), after he pleaded guilty to breaching a COVID-19 regulation by failing to wear a mask that covered his nose and mouth outside his home in 2021.

Despite knowing that he had just tested positive for COVID, Tamilselvam Ramaiya, 64, deliberately coughed at his colleagues, lowering his mask to do so on one occasion, Channel News Asia reported.

The court heard that Tamilselvam worked as a cleaner for Leong Hup Singapore at the time.

On October 18, 2021, he told a senior that he was feeling unwell. A colleague administered an antigen rapid test (ART), and Tamilselvam tested positive for COVID.

After he was given the result, he was instructed to return home and to inform the assistant logistics manager about it.

Coughing away

The manager, who learnt of the positive test result from someone else, told his other colleagues about it.

Instead of going home, Tamilselvam went to the company's logistics office to inform the assistant logistics manager about his test result.

He 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.

Caught on camera

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.

The colleagues who were coughed at were alarmed as they knew Tamilselvam had tested positive for COVID.

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.

A joke?

During investigation, Tamilselvam said he had coughed at his colleagues as a joke.

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 cases.

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

(With agency inputs)

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