Skylar Mack and Vanjae Ramgeet were the first people to be jailed under Cayman’s recently updated quarantine regulations, but they’re certainly not the first in the world to receive prison sentences for breaching a country’s isolation rules. From small islands, like the Isle of Man and Singapore to the huge island of Australia, and even in Mack’s homeland of the United States, courts have been handing down punitive jail terms to those who put local populations at risk by ignoring quarantine rules.
Isle of Man
As of 22 Dec., the Isle of Man – population 83,314 – had reported a total of 374 cases, three of which were active, and 25 deaths. Under the island’s regulations, arrivals are required to quarantine for 14 days. Breaches of quarantine carry a penalty of fines up to £10,000 (CI$11,133) or three months in prison.
Dale McLaughlin, 28, was given a four-week jail sentence on 14 Dec. after riding a jet-ski from Scotland to the little island in the Irish Sea to visit his girlfriend. Under local COVID-suppression laws, only non-residents with special permission are allowed to enter the island. Having never ridden a jet-ski before, he undertook the four-and-a-half-hour journey to travel from the Isle of Whithorn to Ramsey on the Isle of Man on 11 Dec. The following evening, he and his girlfriend visited two busy nightclubs. He was arrested on 13 Dec. after police carried out an identification check.
In September, takeaway delivery driver Ivan Dimitrov, 50, who went to work three days after returning from abroad, was jailed for eight weeks for breaking quarantine laws. Dimitrov, who is Bulgarian, had returned to the island on 3 Sept. after spending time abroad. Three days later, he went back to work as a delivery driver for a Douglas-based restaurant. He was arrested after his actions were reported to police by a member of the public.
Alistair McCormick, 64, was jailed for four weeks in August after admitting visiting a bank and an electronics store in Douglas on 21 Aug. when he was supposed to be self-isolating at home. A court heard that McCormick had spent about 20 minutes in the bank after a cash machine retained his bank card. He was reported to police after telling a member of staff in the bank that he had returned to the island about 10 days ago, having spent three-and-a-half weeks in the UK.
Fraser Nolan of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was jailed in August for four weeks on the Isle of Man after using public transport while she was supposed to be quarantining. She had received special permission to travel to the island, which was closed to non-residents, to settle her late mother’s estate. Having arrived on the island via ferry from Belfast on 16 Aug., she was spotted the same day leaving her quarantine residence to travel to a locksmith by public bus.
As of 22 Dec., Singapore – population 5.8 million – had reported a total of 58,461 positive COVID cases and 29 people have died. Arrivals are required to quarantine for 14 days. Under the Infectious Diseases Act, quarantine breaches carry a penalty of up to six months in jail or a fine of up to S$10,000 (CI$6,255).
A 35-year-old woman, who breached her stay-home notice to meet her friends on the pretext of visiting a doctor for a rash, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail on 16 Sept. Rameswari Devi Jairaj Singh was charged with one count of failing to comply with her stay-home notice by leaving her hotel and spending more than a week outside. She arrived in Singapore on 30 April.
In May, a shopping mall cleaner, who was ordered not to report to work after his colleague contracted COVID-19, instead travelled around Singapore for eight consecutive days, claiming he was bored at home. For repeatedly breaching his quarantine order, Soh Poh Tiong, 65, was jailed for 12 weeks on 8 Dec. He pleaded guilty to three charges under the Infectious Diseases Act, with another five charges taken into consideration.
Key West, Florida, US
As of 22 Dec., Key West in Florida – population 25,000 – had confirmed 2,177 cases. Under Monroe County’s Emergency Management Act, violating quarantine and failing to wear a mask as required carry maximum penalties of 60 days in prison.
Key West man Jose Antonio Frieire Interian, 24, was sentenced to 120 days in jail in October for refusing to obey a state quarantine order issued after he tested positive for coronavirus in July. He pleaded guilty to two charges – violating quarantine during a public health emergency and breaching the state’s emergency management act by not wearing a mask as required by the city at the time. The Keys, which had been closed to non-residents for two months in the spring, reopened to visitors in June.
As of 22 Dec, Australia – population 25.4 million – had recorded 28,238 cases of COIVD-19 and 908 deaths. Each state or territory has its own entry and quarantine requirements. In Western Australia, quarantine breaches carry a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or a AUD$50,000 (CI$31,600) fine.
Perth dentist Natalia Nairn was sentenced on 9 Nov. to two months’ immediate jail for breaching COVID-19 quarantine requirements and treating 41 patients despite knowing the health risk posed by the virus. Nairn flew back to Perth from Canberra on 16 June via Sydney and was supposed to quarantine at home for two weeks, but left her residence seven or eight times to treat patients at a dental clinic. She pleaded guilty to eight charges of failing to comply with isolation regulations. As well as two months in jail, Nairn was also sentenced to another five months suspended for a period of eight months.
In August, 31-year-old Perth man Yusuf Karakaya, who repeatedly breached Western Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine laws by using a ladder to sneak in and out of his hotel to see his girlfriend, received a six-month jail term. He was ordered to spend one month in prison after the other five months of his sentence were suspended. He flew into Perth on 30 July from Sydney, where he had been given permission on compassionate grounds to visit his uncle. He was required to quarantine for 14 days at a city hotel. Over the next three days, he repeatedly snuck out the window of his room onto the roof of the hotel and used the ladder to get down into a laneway.
Also in August, Asher Vander Sanden was sentenced to six months in jail for breaching quarantine laws, after she admitted sneaking across Western Australia’s hard border by hiding in a car that was being transported on a truck. After spending three weeks in custody, she won her appeal against the sentence, which was reduced to community service.
As of 22 Dec., New Zealand – population 5 million – had reported 2,128 COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths. Under the country’s COVID-19 Public Health Response Act, the maximum penalty for breaching quarantine is six months in prison or a NZ$4,000 (CI$2,365) fine.
On 9 Oct., a New Zealand court sentenced a woman to prison for 14 days after she left a COVID-19 isolation facility. The woman faced charges for violating the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and leaving the quarantine facility in July before completing her 14-day isolation. According to her lawyer, the woman and her three children fled their hotel on 24 July after flying from Brisbane to attend her husband’s funeral.
Painter Jesse Courtney Welsh, 33, was sentenced to six weeks in jail in Auckland, New Zealand, on 21 Aug. for entering a quarantine facility and hugging a friend who was in isolation after returning from abroad. Welsh had been on a night out with friends when he heard that another friend was in quarantine at a nearby hotel and he went to visit him.