Woman fined BND5K for violating Ministry of Health order

Fadley Faisal

A 62-year-old local woman who disregarded the Ministry of Health (MoH) orders and continued to offer dine-in services at her home restaurant was ordered to settle a BND5,000 fine by tomorrow, failing which she would have to serve a month’s jail in default.

The case against Ting Siew Kiing, the first prosecution brought under the new amendments of the Infectious Diseases Act, is for an offence under Section 62A(2) of the Infectious Diseases Act, Chapter 204, failing to comply with the direction issued by the MoH against dine-in services.

In handing down the sentence, Chief Magistrate Pengiran Masni binti Pengiran Haji Bahar said the court considered the rationale behind the issuance of the Advisory Order by the Minister of Health on March 19, 2020, which corresponded with the press release issued by the ministry, stating that there was a rise in the number of infections due to close contact, and one way to minimise the spread of COVID-19 was by practicing social distancing.

The Chief Magistrate referred to Paragraph 1 of the Advisory Order which states that “all dining venues will be closed as of Thursday, March 19, 2020 for dine-in services and are advised to serve takeaway and deliveries for the time being to reduce the risk of transmission”.

The Chief Magistrate said that the message in the Advisory Order was very clear and was meant to reduce the risk of transmission by way of contact.

In considering the sentence, the Chief Magistrate also considered the mitigating factors with the defendant’s guilty plea and clear record, but also needed to consider the impact of the offence.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorised COVID-19 as a pandemic, highly contagious and affects all demographics, this is a matter of public knowledge. The defendant admitted she knew of the Advisory Order but chose to ignore it and allowed customers to dine-in, thus risking exposing the virus to other people. This is an aggravating factor, in light of the current situation and a deterrent sentence must be imposed,” the Chief Magistrate said.

The defendant pleaded guilty on March 25 and admitted that she had failed to comply with the direction issued by the Ministry of Health on March 19, 2020 for dining establishments not to provide dine-in services after police investigations revealed that she had continued to provide dine-in services in the living room of her flat in Mabohai on March 21, 2020, two days after the direction was issued.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Aminudin Zaki bin Dato Abdul Rahman represented the Public Prosecutor.

The public prosecutor also reminded the public of the MoH’s direction for all food and beverage establishments not to serve dine-in customers in line with other national measures taken to contain the spread of infection of the COVID-19 virus in Brunei. Anyone found guilty of not complying with this direction and any other directions issued by the Ministry of Health under the Infectious Diseases Act is liable to be prosecuted and faces a maximum fine of BND10,000 and imprisonment for six months.