In 2020, Indian national Parthiban Balachandran, a migrant worker, had escaped from the hospital and quarantine dorms several times in a bid to try to get home to India after testing positive for COVID-19. He admitted to doing so in court on May 14, and plead guilty to to a charge each of exposing others to the risk of COVID-19 infection and leaving an isolation area without permission.
The 26-year-old also has another two charges of exposing others to the risk of infection and of using insulting words towards a health officer which are to be considered in sentencing.
What did Parthiban Balachandran do?
According to a report by Channel News Asia, the Indian national was staying in Penjuru dormitory in April 2020. This was one of the dormitories that were put into quarantine at the height of the first Circuit Breaker.
Parthiban reported symptoms on May 23, 2020. He had developed fever and a sore throat. He was taken to Singapore General Hospital where he took a swab test. He tested positive the next day, but while he was waiting for the results and told to stay put on hospital premises, he left.
He was transferred to a fever-screening area, where nurses explained to him in both English and Tamil that he needed to stay and wait for his result. What’s more, he should not leave since he may infect other people.
But Parthiban didn’t listen, and he left the hospital carpark that was converted into the screening area. He took public transportation and planned to go to the airport to buy a ticket and return to India.
The report said, “Closed-circuit television footage showed him leaving with two bags, walking towards Kim Tian Road and crossing an overhead bridge. He walked to Yong Siak Street, where he took a bus and later flagged a cab at Lower Delta Road.”
Upon arriving at Changi Airport, he tried to buy a ticket but wasn’t allowed. He didn’t leave, and wandered the airport for four hours until the police caught up with him.
He later tested positive for COVID-19.
The taxi driver who took him to the airport was contacted and placed in a 14-day quarantine, where he was unable to earn for the period. He tested negative for COVID-19.
After the police returned him to the hospital, Parthiban was able to serve his isolation period completely and was released on June 8 of that year. He was then told to go back to the dormitory and serve 14 days leave and to not leave the compound.
Second escape of Parthiban
While he was declared as no longer infectious, Parthiban did not follow the 14-day leave that was imposed. Once again, he was seen leaving the dormitory with his two bags, and headed to the airport. Reports said he left because he knew a lot of workers in the dormitories who were getting infected.
He left before the leave period was finished, and he was again denied a ticket when he went to Changi Airport. Since the police were no longer hunting him, he loitered and even slept in the vicinity of the airport. He went to a relative’s house in Tampines when his airport trip proved fruitless.
The relative accepted Parthiban, but was only told about his status as escaped from the dormitory after he was allowed access to the house. The relative then called Parthiban’s employer and he was fetched from the house and taken into custody.
During the trial, Parthiban was noted to be rowdy. He made several claims and even got angry at the judge and personnel present during the trial.
He said, “Who are you both to charge me? Are you a judge?”
Other things he said included, “What rights do you have to charge me?”, “Have you read law? Or do you have proper education to charge me?.”
Parthiban was sentenced to six months in jail.