A taxi driver was jailed for four months in Singapore on Wednesday over a fake Facebook post in which he claimed food outlets would close and urged people to stock up due to impending coronavirus restrictions, local media reported.
Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group with around 7,500 members after 15 minutes, court records show, but the public prosecutor called for a punishment that would deter others.
Singapore, which has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed tough punishments on those who breach containment rules or spread misinformation as it tackles one of Asia’s highest coronavirus rates.
The psychological fight to allay fear and hysteria is just as important as the fight to contain the spread of coronavirus, deputy public prosecutor Deborah Lee said in her sentencing submission, according to case documents.
Lai, who represented himself and could not be reached for comment, was sentenced to four months’ jail in the State Courts on Wednesday, according to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper and broadcaster Channel News Asia.
The State Courts did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sentencing.
The offence of transmitting a false message in Singapore is punishable with a fine not exceeding US$7,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
Last month, a man who broke quarantine with 30 minutes remaining to buy a flatbread worth a few dollars was fined US$7,000. Another man who breached an order to stay home to eat pork rib soup was jailed for six weeks.
According to court records, police received a complaint on April 20 about Lai’s post which said the government was closing food courts and coffee shops and supermarkets would only be open two days a week.
Better go stock up your stuff for the next month or so, the post said, on which people commented urging him not to spread such rumors, according to the court documents.