SINGAPORE – Singapore jailed a taxi driver for four months on Wednesday over a Facebook post in which he falsely claimed that food establishments would close and urged people to stock up due to impending COVID-19 restrictions.
Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group of about 7,500 members after 15 minutes, case records show, but the prosecutor called for a sentence that would deter others.
Singapore, which has seen episodes of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed severe penalties on those who violate containment rules or disseminate misinformation as it tackles one of Asia’s highest COVID-19 rates. .
“The psychological fight to calm fear and hysteria is as important as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Deputy Prosecutor Deborah Lee said in her sentencing, according to case records.
Lai, who represented himself and could not be reached for comment, was sentenced to four months in prison on Wednesday, a spokesman for the state courts said.
The crime of transmitting a false message in Singapore is punishable by a fine not to exceed S $ 10,000 ($ 7,000) or imprisonment for a period not to exceed three years, or both.
Last month, a man who broke the quarantine with 30 minutes left to buy a flatbread for a few dollars was fined $ 1,000. Another man who failed to comply with an order to stay home to eat pork rib soup was jailed for six weeks.
According to case records, police received a complaint on April 20 about Lai’s post saying the government would close food courts and cafes, and supermarkets would only open two days a week.
“Better go store your stuff for the next month or so,” the post said, in which people commented that it urged it not to spread such rumors.