The Magistrate’s Court yesterday ordered a 46-year-old local man to settle a BND9,000 fine, on finding him guilty of failure to comply with a directive from the Ministry of Health (MoH) under the Infectious Diseases Act.
Jimy Aizal bin Haji Razali would have to serve five months’ jail in default of payment.
The charge states that Jimy had failed to report himself to the MoH as directed, after attending a religious congregation at Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between February 28 and March 3, 2020.
The prosecution’s case had always been that Jimy, also known as Raziq, went to Kuala Lumpur on February 27, 2020, to attend a mass religious Tabligh gathering at Jamek Seri Petaling Mosque. He returned to Brunei on March 3, 2020.
On March 9, 2020 the MoH conducted a press conference informing the public on the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam.
It was informed that the first case was a local man who had travelled to Kuala Lumpur and returned to Brunei on March 3, 2020.
In another press conference on March 10, 2020, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar revealed that the first case had attended a religious congregation (Tabligh) at the Jamek Seri Petaling Mosque, Kuala Lumpur, which was also reportedly attended by approximately 90 Brunei citizens, including the defendant.
In the same press conference, the minister stated that these persons were immediately required to call the MoH for health advice and further investigation.
The defendant informed the police that he was not suffering from any COVID-19 symptoms and that he had been contacted by the MoH, but was unsuccessful when he tried to call back. He also informed the police that he would be travelling abroad the next day, and that he would undergo quarantine upon returning from his travels.
The police instructed him to pack his belongings that he would need to bring with him during quarantine for 14 days.
It was sometime during this conversation that the defendant informed the police of his real name, Jimy Aizal, which the police later confirmed with the defendant’s identification card.
The defendant was then brought to the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Sports Complex, where he was given a swab test and subsequently brought to the Games Village in Berakas to be quarantined.
Jimy called in his wife, who is a nurse, to testify, but chose to remain silent himself. Jimy’s wife testified that she was worried for her husband, but saw that he was not experiencing any symptoms of cough, flu, fever, sore throat or difficulties in breathing, as well as other health problems.
She testified that she called the MoH’s Health Advice Line and spoke to a woman who, after learning of the defendant’s condition and situation, advised him to continue self-monitoring and to go to RIPAS Hospital for a health check if symptoms developed.
She said she had not paid attention to the March 10, 2020 press conference; and was only aware sometime later, during the night, that the first COVID-19 patient was a member of the same Tabligh group as her husband. She testified about how she did not think it was necessary for her to call the MoH, given that she had done so earlier in the day.
She told the court that on the morning of March 11, 2020, she booked a one-way ticket for the defendant to go to Singapore on March 15, 2020.
She tried to call the Health Advice Line again but was unsuccessful and continued her work duties, assuming that the defendant would be called if he was required by the MoH.
She added in her testimony that on the afternoon of March 11, she was informed by her husband that a doctor had called him to tell him to go for a check-up.
It was only when the defendant was picking up his wife from work that she learned that he had been advised to go for a check-up, and that he would call the doctor back after checking with her.
However, according to Jimy’s wife, the defendant had told her that he could not get through after trying a number of times. She produced a screenshot of the defendant’s phone call logs.
She further testified that she did not think of calling the Darussalam Line 123, and that she did not find any urgency in the media statement made by the Minister of Health on March 11, 2020, for her husband or any other group of people to call.
The witness further told the Court that on the night of March 12, 2020, she had agreed with the defendant to go to RIPAS Hospital’s Accidents and Emergency Department after the Isyak prayer.
However, the police soon arrived at their house, saying that they were going to escort the defendant and that she need not follow. The court was satisfied with the prosecution’s case to have proven it beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant had failed to contact the MoH and that there was no evidence to suggest he had contacted them.
The court’s findings include that it was only the next day that he was contacted by the MoH, but that was due to the fact he did not call them himself.
Acting Senior Magistrate Hajah Ervy Sufitriana binti Haji Abdul Rahman presided over the case.
Prosecutor Ahmad Firdaus bin Mohammad conducted the trial, opposing the defendant, who was represented by lawyers Muhammad Zainidi bin Haji Abdul Hamid and Sharah binti Abdul Hamid.