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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
Jail for breaking Sars quarantine
Nurses at a hospital in Singapore
Singapore has imposed tough laws to fight the Sars virus

A Singaporean man who broke Sars quarantine has been sentenced to six months in jail, local media report.

Chua Hock Seng, 50, received the maximum penalty for twice disobeying an order to remain at home under the newly-amended Infectious Disease Act.

"Your conduct... is irresponsible and incorrigible," senior district judge Richard Magnus was quoted by the Straits Times as saying when delivering the verdict.

Chua was the first person to be prosecuted under Singapore's new tough laws, aimed at preventing any further spread of the pneumonia-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The city-state is among the countries hardest hit by the virus, with 27 confirmed deaths so far.

'Reckless behaviour'

Despite having been ordered to serve the quarantine, Chua left his home at least twice. Both times he went to a local bar to drink beer.

Known death tolls:
World: 812
Mainland China: 348
Hong Kong: 298
Taiwan: 84
Singapore: 32
Canada: 38
Source: WHO/local authorities

On the first occasion - on 29 April - he was caught after showing off his home quarantine order in front of other customers.

After a check-up at a local hospital - which found that he did not have the deadly virus - Chua was sent home.

But just two days later he again went out drinking again - and this time he was arrested.

The judge described Chua's behaviour as "reckless", saying that he had "put the unsuspecting public and public health at risk".

    In other developments:

  • Scientists warn that Sars could pose a threat to humans for many years to come

  • Authorities in China - the world's worst hit country - warn against complacency, despite an apparent drop in new cases, and announce tax breaks to help affected businesses

  • Authorities in the Chinese capital Beijing - where 114 people have died from Sars - put another 323 people in quarantine, bringing the total number to more than 18,000

  • The US State Department advisers non-essential staff at the American Institute in Taiwan to leave on a "voluntary basis" as fears of Sars spread

  • Taiwan's state oil company suspends an exploration project with its Chinese counterpart because the outbreak is preventing its official from travelling to China

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