United Kingdom

Briton jailed after breaking Singapore's strict quarantine rules for night with fiancée

A British man has been jailed for two weeks for breaking Singapore's strict coroanvirus quarantine rules after he left his hotel room for a night with his fiancée.

Nigel Skea was also fined 1,000 Singapore Dollars (£540) for the breach, while Singaporean Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai - now his wife - was jailed for a week for helping him.

The judge presiding over the case said 52-year-old Skea left his room in the luxury hotel three times on September 21 last year, despite Singapore requiring people to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine upon their arrival to the country.

Arguing on behalf of the couple, their defence said they had been overcome with emotions because they had not seen each other for a long time, and that Skea had travelled from London to propose.

But passing sentence, judge Jasvender Kaur said disruptions to relationships were inevitable during the pandemic, and the court must send a 'clear message' such violations could not be tolerated.

British national Nigel Skea (right) and wife Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai (walking behind him) arrive at the State Court in Singapore on February 26. Skea was jailed for two weeks and fined 1,000 Singapore Dollars, the equivalent of £540, while Eyamalai was hailed for a week

Skea arrived in September from London to visit Eyamalai and was ordered to undergo a mandatory, two-week quarantine at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel. 

He texted Eyamalai, 39, details of where he was staying and she booked a separate room at the same hotel, 13 floors higher. 

He then sneaked out of his room and walked up the emergency staircase to the 27th floor where Eyamalai, who was not under quarantine, opened the emergency exit door for him. 

The pair spent the night together, but a security guard caught him the next morning as he tried to return to his own room. 

He could not access his floor via the emergency staircase, so he had to walk down to the fourth floor, where he was spotted. 

He was also not wearing a mask, another violation of virus rules. The couple, who were married in November, had pleaded guilty. 

Their lawyer, Surinder Singh Dhillon, told reporters they would not appeal the sentences as 'they want to finish this matter, and he wants to go back home as soon as possible'.   

According to the BBC, Skea did not react when the judge read out his sentence, but his now-wife gasped when she heard she would spend one week in prison. 

Briton Skea Nigel and partner Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai arrive at the State Courts for a hearing after breaking coronavirus disease (COVID-19) quarantine regulations in Singapore February 15, after breaking quarantine rules in September last year

Their lawyers reportedly cited a number of other cases, but the judge dismissed them saying that the couple had put hotel staff at risk.

She also said that it didn't matter that Skea had stayed within the hotel, saying that he had intentionally chosen to breach his quarantine order when he texted his fiancée at the time the moment he had arrived.

The defence argued that Skea had travelled to Singapore in order to propose, and that they were overcome with emotions after not seeing each other for a long time. 

But the judge said this was not a mitigating factor, and that the need for restrictions to stop the spread of the pandemic outweighed their need to see each other, with disruptions to relationships an inevitable consequence to Covid measures. 

Speaking after the ruling, their lawyers said the couple had mixed feelings about the result, but that they were pleased the sentences were less than what the prosecution had sought.

The lawyer added that Skea did not plan on appealing, and that he wants to 'finish the matter' and return to the UK and his work as soon as he can. 

The judge presiding over the case said 52-year-old Skea left his room in the luxury hotel three times on September 21 last year, with Singapore requiring people to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine upon their arrival to the country. Pictured: The exterior of Singapore's state courts where the couple stood trial 

Singapore requires most arrivals to undergo 14 days of quarantine at government-designated hotels. Quarantine violations can be penalised with a fine of up to S$10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

Authorities in the city-state have been uncompromising when it comes to those breaking virus rules.

The island nation has jailed and fined others for breaking COVID-19 rules, while some foreigners have also had their work permits revoked.   

Singapore has been mildly affected by the pandemic, reporting nearly 60,000 cases with 29 deaths.   

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