Nasi Kandar Eatery Owner Linked to Sivagangga Cluster Jailed 5 Months, Fined RM12k

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The first Covid-19 patient to be charged and convicted after disobeying a quarantine order.

The owner of Nasi Kandar Salleh in Napoh, Kubang Pasu linked to the Sivagangga cluster has been sentenced to five months’ jail and fined RM12,000 by the Alor Setar Magistrate’s Court today.

Magistrate Mohd Hadi Hakimi Harun sentenced Nezar Mohamed Sabur Batcha, 57, after he pleaded guilty to four counts of failing to comply with the home quarantine order on July 14.

The sentence was meted out at a special session held at the Alor Setar Old Hospital here, where the accused was quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19.

Nezar Mohamed is accused of violating the home quarantine order imposed on him under Section 15 (1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

He committed the offence at the Bank Rakyat premises Jitra Branch at 4.40 pm; at the Agro Bank premises, Jitra Branch at 3.58 pm; at the Kubang Pasu Revenue Service Centre premises at the Inland Revenue Board Jitra Branch at 3.35 pm and at the Jitra Branch Public Bank premises at 3 pm, on July 14.

The accused was charged under Section 22 (b) and punishable under Section 24 (a) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, which carries a maximum prison sentence of two years or a fine or both.

Nezar Mohamed was sentenced to five months’ jail after the court ordered the jail sentences to run concurrently starting from today, and fined RM3,000 for each charge.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Zabidah Ahmad, while the accused was not represented by a lawyer.

Earlier, Zabidah had asked the court to impose a deterrent sentence on the accused as a lesson to him and others so as not to violate the directives issued by the government.

She said the accused had triggered the Sivagangga cluster on July 28 which had threatened public health, involving three districts in Kedah (Kubang Pasu, Kulim, Padang Terap), one district in Perlis (Kangar) and two districts in Penang (Seberang Perai Selatan and Seberang Perai Tengah).

“The country’s economy was also affected because the Sivagangga Cluster had caused the government to lose more than RM1 million in the TEMCO (Targeted Enhanced Movement Control Order) area of Kubang Pasu district alone and caused anxiety and concern to the general public,” he said.

Nezar is believed to be the index case of the Sivagangga cluster, named as such as he had returned from Sivagangga, India, after which he violated a home quarantine order.

Four mukims in Kubang Pasu were placed under targeted enhanced movement control order with the restaurant closed and sealed until the end of the month.

It has since emerged as one of the largest active clusters in the country with 45 active cases as of noon yesterday, with cases spanning six districts in Kedah, Perlis and Penang.

Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had said that the infection linked to this cluster spread “very quickly” compared to other infection clusters in the country.

He cited concern this could be linked to a genome of Covid-19 which had been identified as a superspreader in Egypt and Pakistan.