Too close? Singapore's new virus-fighting rules could lead to prison


Posted at Mar 27 2020 10:08 AM

Commuters wait for a transport to leave the Woodlands Causeway across to Singapore from Johor, hours before Malaysia imposes a lockdown on travel due to the coronavirus outbreak March 17, 2020. Edgar Su, Reuters/File

Anyone caught breaking Singapore's social distancing rules can land themselves in prison from Friday after the city-state made it an offence for a person to intentionally stand close to another person as part of its coronavirus defence.

Singapore has won international praise for its fastidious approach in tackling the virus, which has included using police investigators and security cameras to help track suspected carriers.

With some of the world's highest population densities, the city-state this week announced more stringent social distancing measures such as shutting bars, limiting gatherings to up to 10 people outside work and school as well as a ban on large events.

Under updates to its powerful infectious diseases law, anyone who intentionally sits less than 1 metre away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat demarcated as not to be occupied, or who stands in a queue less than a metre away from another, will be guilty of an offence.

Offenders can be fined up to S$10,000 ($6,990), jailed for up to 6 months, or both.

The rules, in place until April 30, can be applied to individuals and businesses.

Singapore is well known for its strict rules: fines can be doled out for everything from feeding birds to forgetting to flush a public toilet.

Some countries including Italy, Britain and New Zealand have gone into complete lockdown, but Singapore has avoided the move. Authorities have said more drastic measures may be needed if locals do not take social distancing seriously.

Singapore's number of coronavirus cases rose by 52 to 683 infections on Thursday, and two people have died.