Jail for man with Covid-19 who coughed at colleagues, including dialysis patient, as a ‘joke’

Tamilselvam Ramaiya was sentenced to two weeks’ jail after pleading guilty to an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – A cleaner who was found to have Covid-19 in October 2021 deliberately coughed in the direction of two colleagues – one of whom had kidney issues and had undergone dialysis.

Tamilselvam Ramaiya later told investigators that he had coughed at them as a “joke”, but the prosecution stressed on Monday that the issue was no laughing matter.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana also said that none of Tamilselvam’s colleagues contracted Covid-19 as a result of his actions.

She added that his antics took place at a time when Singapore was experiencing a fresh surge of Covid-19 cases, which necessitated the tightening of restrictions under the Stabilisation Phase from Sept 27 to Oct 24, 2021.

The 64-year-old Singaporean was sentenced to two weeks’ jail on Monday after he pleaded guilty to an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

Tamilselvam, who was working as a cleaner for investment holding firm Leong Hup Singapore at the time, had a runny nose when he reported for work at its logistics office in Senoko Way on Oct 18, 2021, morning.

An assistant logistics manager told him to take an antigen rapid test (ART), and when the result came back positive, told Tamilselvam to go home.

The manager then told the two colleagues – a 40-year-old male logistics supervisor and a 56-year-old female clerk with heart and kidney issues – about the cleaner’s condition.

But instead of heading home immediately, Tamilselvam went to an office to look for the assistant logistics manager.

The two victims were in the office, an enclosed air-conditioned room, when Tamilselvam and a 33-year-old driver, who was unaware of the older man’s condition, entered at around 10.30am.

The logistics supervisor told the driver not to go near Tamilselvam, and told the cleaner to leave the premises.

The DPP said: “The accused, who was initially wearing his mask, walked towards the office door and exited the office. However, he then opened the office door and coughed into the office with his mask on. The accused did this twice, before the (logistics supervisor) closed the office door with his leg.”

Tamilselvam opened the office door again soon after.

He lowered his mask to expose his nose and mouth, and coughed into the office a third time before leaving.

The clerk was seated in the office next to a window at the time.

Tamilselvam opened the window from the outside and coughed once in her direction with his mask on while he was about an arm’s length from her.

His antics alarmed the two colleagues, and the assistant logistics manager lodged a police report later that day.

On Monday, DPP Sruthi pressed for him to be given three to four weeks’ jail, adding: “The accused’s actions... reflect a wanton disregard for the safety of his colleagues.”

“The (female) victim, in particular, was a dialysis patient who suffered from both cardiac and renal issues. She was therefore particularly alarmed by the accused’s actions and quickly administered an ART on herself after the accused coughed in her direction,” she added.

Defence lawyer Lee Wei Yung, however, pleaded for Tamilselvam to be given a fine.

The lawyer also said that if the court were to impose a jail sentence, his client should be given one that is shorter than that sought by the prosecutor.

Mr Lee stressed that his client has a heart condition and did not commit the offence out of malice.

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