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Jail for unvaccinated man who lied his way into Redhill hawker centre, punched NEA officers

SINGAPORE — Despite being unvaccinated against Covid-19, Chua Soon Hean got into Redhill Food Centre last year by lying that he had forgotten his TraceTogether contact-tracing token and merely wanted to get takeaway food.

A view of Redhill Food Centre.
A view of Redhill Food Centre.
  • Chua Soon Hean got into Redhill Food Centre and mingled with others while not wearing a mask
  • NEA officers checking on patrons’ vaccination statuses realised he was not immunised against Covid-19
  • When they questioned him, he turned aggressive and punched two officers
  • He was also intoxicated at the time

SINGAPORE — Despite being unvaccinated against Covid-19, Chua Soon Hean got into Redhill Food Centre last year by lying that he had forgotten his TraceTogether contact-tracing token and merely wanted to get takeaway food.

The odd-job worker then ordered food and alcohol, hung out with some friends and sat down at a table with his girlfriend.

When officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) conducted spot checks and asked how he had entered the hawker centre, he turned aggressive and punched two officers, challenging them to a fight.

On Thursday (Feb 24), Chua was jailed for 26 weeks — or about six months — for his actions.

Under current Covid-19 regulations, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals are not allowed to eat at hawker centres and other food establishments. They can only buy food for takeaway.

The 54-year-old Singaporean, who has been remanded since last month, pleaded guilty to one charge each of voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant and entering the hawker centre even though he was not vaccinated.

It was the first prosecution of its kind for the first offence, which falls under the Infectious Diseases (Covid-19 Access Restrictions and Clearance) Regulations 2021.

Two other similar charges — including failing to wear a face mask in public — were taken into consideration for sentencing.


The court heard that Chua got to Redhill Food Centre at about 8pm on Oct 23 last year with his girlfriend, having arranged to meet some friends to eat and drink there.

He was stopped at the entrance to check in via the SafeEntry system. He then lied that he did not have his TraceTogether token and just wished to buy some food for takeaway.

The operator believed him and allowed him to enter. He then went over to two friends who ordered some beer and food.

Closed-circuit television footage of the hawker centre, which was played in court, showed him standing next to a table interacting with others nearby while not wearing a face mask. It was relatively crowded at the time as it was a Saturday night.

A group of five NEA officers, who had been deployed to the hawker centre to enforce safety regulations, then approached the group. Chua put on his mask as soon as he noticed them.

The officers told them not to intermingle because people were only allowed to eat together in groups of two at the time. Because of this, Chua and his girlfriend went to another table and sat there.

The officers then checked their vaccination statuses. Chua claimed that he did not have his mobile phone or TraceTogether token with him.

When he handed over his National Registration Identity Card, the officers checked it and realised that he was not vaccinated against Covid-19. They questioned how he got into the hawker centre, to which Chua lied that there was no one at the entrance to check his status.

An officer told him to leave, but Chua became uncooperative and pointed his index finger towards the other officers, asking why they did not check those sitting at other tables.

As he began shouting, a passer-by held Chua back but he then pushed one of the officers on his shoulder. When another officer tried to intervene, Chua charged at him and punched on the face near his upper lip.

Chua then tried to punch the officer again but he blocked Chua. The first officer tried to pull his colleague away before Chua landed a punch on the side of his neck.

Chua’s friends held him back but he continued to point his finger at the officers, challenging them to a fight. He soon calmed down.

During investigations, he claimed that he had chosen to sit at the hawker centre because he was “used to it” and that it was “so hard to change to the new rules”.

He had about 54mg of ethanol in every 100ml of blood, which meant that he was under the influence of alcohol.


Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Heershan Kaur argued that Chua’s actions were deliberate and premeditated.

She said that his lies to the food centre operator were “akin to cheating” and that he committed the offences just 10 days after vaccine-related infection controls were introduced at hawker centres.

As for his assault against the NEA officers, DPP Kaur said that his actions not only showed contempt for authority but created a risk of erosion of public respect for NEA officers.

Many people had surrounded the accused, stall owners had a clear view of the commotion and CCTV footage showed passers-by turning their heads to watch, the prosecutor added.

In mitigation, Chua — who did not have a lawyer — said in Hokkien through an interpreter that he had been remanded for over a month since before Chinese New Year and has not seen his girlfriend since then.

He asked for a lighter sentence and added that there was “no else in his family” and that his parents are “not around”.

Anyone who enter and have meals at a food centre without a cleared vaccination status can be jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$5,000.

For voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from performing his duty, Chua could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined or caned.

Related topics

court crime Covid-19 vaccination Redhill Market and Food Centre assault public servant NEA breach

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