Singapore’s Social Distancing Patrol Accused of Assaulting Pregnant Woman

A nine-month pregnant woman living in Singapore recently alleged she was “pushed to the ground” and “kicked” by Singaporean government employees assigned to monitor social distancing at a local park after she confronted the people for their suspicious behavior, Singapore’s Mothership digital news platform reported Thursday.

The alleged physical assault took place on March 8 around 6:00 pm local time while the woman, her husband, and their two children enjoyed an evening together at a local park. The woman posted an account of the incident to her Facebook page on March 16. The Mothership reviewed the woman’s statement and relayed highlights of her alleged ordeal on March 17, writing:

Her husband spotted a group of two men and a woman “loitering” there [at a the park], and taking photos of their children.

She said that when he approached them to ask why they were doing so, one of the men from the group said “nothing concerns you” and “I will delete them later”.

The confrontation soon escalated, as the same man who claimed he would “delete the photos” soon “shoved” the woman’s husband and ran away. Continuing, the Mothership relayed:

The couple then gave chase — the woman on foot, while her husband pursued them on his bicycle.

The woman shared that she … ended up getting pushed to the ground by one of the three persons.

Another allegedly kicked her while she was trying to get back up, but her husband was able to hold him down while waiting for the police.

The two additional members of the group caught spying on the family successfully ran away from the couple, but not before one of them “dropped a name tag on the grass.” This name tag identified the person as an employee of the Singaporean government. The person’s official title as printed on the label was “Safe Distancing Ambassador.”

Facebook/Mai Surah

Singapore’s government issued a statement March 17 confirming the three people involved in the incident were “Safe Distancing Ambassadors” for the city-state’s housing development board. The statement claimed the staffers were “on patrol” at the time of the March 8 altercation and were “taking some pictures for routine reporting purposes.”

The nine-month pregnant woman, identified by her Facebook account as Mai Surah, said she filed a police report to document the alleged physical assault on her and her husband on March 8.

“My [unborn] baby is thankfully alright although my face was swollen and sustained bruises,” Surah wrote on her Facebook page on March 16.

The woman said in the statement she and her husband are still awaiting updates from the local police as they proceed with their investigation into the incident. She added that she shared her account of the event via social media to help connect with people who may have witnessed the altercation, “including those who were in a car that drove by and honked at one point.”

Singapore’s government has employed so-called “Safe Distancing Ambassadors” over the past two years to help encourage people to maintain a certain distance from others while in public. The measure aims to reduce the transmission of the Chinese coronavirus.

“An [Safe Distancing] ambassador’s task is to remind businesses and people of safe distancing measures, such as wearing a mask and leaving sufficient space when queuing,” Singapore’s CNA news platform explained in August 2021.

CNA’s report distinguished between Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs) and an elevated version of the monitors known as “Safe-Distancing Enforcement Officers (EOs).”

Section 55 of Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Act grants EOs the power to “enter, inspect and search any premise,” or “stop, board, inspect and search any conveyance” in which an outbreak or suspected outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus has occurred.

“They can do this at any time without a warrant, and with force if necessary, for the purpose of investigating any outbreak or suspected outbreak, or for the purpose of preventing the spread or possible outbreak of any infectious disease,” CNA noted.

“If a person is suspected of breaking COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] regulations, such as exceeding the permitted number of visitors per day, enforcement officers can search their premises without a warrant,” the news site reported.

Singaporean government authorities received “75 reports related to the conduct of safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) and 17 related to safe distancing enforcement officers (EOs)” in the first eight months of 2021, the Straits Times reported in September 2021.

“Of these cases, 22 were found to be substantiated, mostly for rude or unprofessional behaviour,” Singaporean Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said on September 14, 2021.

“Twenty of these cases involved SDAs and two involved EOs,” the Straits Times observed.

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