Friday, March 5, 2021

Singapore woman jailed 5 months for lying to Covid-19 contact tracers

She said she kept her meetings with a man secret because she was concerned her family would spread rumours about them having an affair.

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A woman who was hospitalised with Covid-19 failed to tell contact tracers that she had met a man who was not her husband at least five times while infectious.

The man later contracted the disease and she called him when he was exhibiting symptoms and asked him not to tell anyone about their meetings.

For hindering health ministry officers in their work, 65-year-old Oh Bee Hiok was given five months’ jail on Friday, CNA reports.

She is the first person to be sentenced for such an offence in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court heard that Oh was admitted to hospital last February with a high fever and was confirmed to have Covid-19.

An epidemiologist spoke to her for the purposes of contact tracing and activity mapping, and Oh deliberately left out relevant information from her replies.

Reports noted that she was also defensive and not forthcoming, so that the officer had to warn her that it is an offence to conceal information.

After this, the ministry began investigations and discovered multiple meetings she had had with a 72-year-old man, her close friend Lim Kiang Hong while she was infectious.

In court Oh admitted that she deliberately withheld relevant details as she wanted to keep her meetings with Lim private.

She told the court she did not want her family or Lim’s family to find out they were going out so frequently because she was concerned they would spread rumours about them having an affair.

Deputy public prosecutor Jane Lim asked for the maximum six months’ jail, saying, “Her actions led to a significant waste of public resources. Multiple people were needed to ascertain activity mapping because she was not forthcoming.”

District judge Marvin Bay said contact tracing is essential to the country’s fight against the pandemic and “we are only as strong as our weakest link”.

When sentencing Oh to five months’ jail, he said, “While I understand her motivations and desire to maintain the secrecy of her meetings with Lim, these are self-serving and selfish reasons within the pressing public interest need to control the pandemic.”

He added, “The court must send a clear message that any act of withholding information likely to mislead contact tracers is totally unacceptable.”

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