SINGAPORE — A pest control technician suffering from a cough refused to take a swab test or medical leave as he wanted to qualify for a $100 bonus for not taking medical leave.
A Rahim M Taha, 60, who was a team supervisor with Verminator, even told a doctor that he did not mind being reported to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
He left the clinic without taking the test and continued working the next day.
On Tuesday (18 January), Rahim was jailed five weeks. He had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of exposing others to the risk of COVID-19.
As a team supervisor, Rahim would drive his colleagues using the company’s van to each location. He was paid a basic salary of $1,500 a month and worked from Monday to Saturday. He was given an additional $100 allowance if he fulfilled several conditions, including not taking medical leave during the month.
Cough for three weeks
On 5 October 2020, Rahim visited Yishun Polyclinic for a cough that he had been suffering for three weeks. He told the doctor that the cough worsened at night. During his consultation, Rahim had a temperature of 37.4 degrees.
The doctor told Rahim that he had to go for an X-ray as well as a swab test to test for COVID-19. Rahim initially agreed.
A nurse then told Rahim that he would be given medical leave, during which he had to stay at home pending the test result. Upon hearing this, Rahim told the nurse he did not want to take the swab test as he wanted to work.
Rahim’s doctor explained to Rahim that his cough was a symptom of upper respiratory tract infection. He added that given the current government regulations, Rahim would be given three days’ medical leave, during which he was to be confined to his house until he received a negative swab test result.
Rahim then repeated that he did not want to undergo the test, prompting the doctor to say that Rahim would have to be on medical leave for five days instead. Rahim refused both the swab test and the medical leave.
“He told (the doctor) that he would not qualify for the additional $100 allowance so long as he is placed on medical leave regardless of whether it is for three or five days. In addition, the accused asked (the doctor) who would compensate him the $100 if he accepted the medical leave,” noted Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yang.
The doctor then warned that Rahim's actions were against the law and that the matter would be escalated to MOH. In response, Rahim said he did not mind.
After speaking to an MOH staff member on the phone, the doctor tried persuading Rahim again, but to no avail. Rahim left Yishun Polyclinic after collecting his medication.
Went to work, met two colleagues
On 6 October 2020, Rahim went to work, meeting two colleagues. The team went to inspect a potential rodent infestation at Tai Keng Terrace and at Bartley Road. They then went to the Think 1 Building at Ubi Road, followed by MacPherson Neighbourhood Police Post, to spray insecticide.
The team ate lunch in the van and travelled to Geylang Road for work. A colleague noticed Rahim coughing “very badly” and asked him to go home for fear of infecting the rest of the team with COVID-19. Rahim headed home.
That same morning, a manager of the Surveillance and Enforcement Branch in MOH called Rahim and told him that he should not leave his house during his medical leave. Rahim replied that he would be penalised by his company if he took medical leave. Rahim then continued working.
The officer later asked a colleague to follow up with Rahim, who lied that he was already at home but was in fact working.
It is uncertain whether Rahim had COVID-19 at the material time. Rahim told the court that when he finally had a swab test done, it was negative.
Rahim sought a lighter sentence due to various illnesses involving his heart and liver. He said he was supporting two children.
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