Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Singapore health official to be charged over Covid numbers leak

Zhao Zheng and one other woman will be charged with offences under the city-state's Official Secrets Act.

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Two Singapore women will be charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on Wednesday.

Zhao Zheng, 36, was the health ministry’s Data Management Unit’s deputy lead at the time of the offences and an authorised recipient of confidential information on Covid-19 cases.

Police arrested her in April last year during the “circuit breaker” period for allegedly leaking the daily Covid-19 case numbers to a WeChat group with 49 other members multiple times between March and April 2020.

She also allegedly accessed a government Covid-19 database for confidential information about a patient on behalf of another woman, Tang Lin, who will also be charged under the OSA.

Tang is accused of soliciting Zhao to send information to her on March 28 last year, by asking her to check on the case status of a person who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Tang is also accused of sending confidential information to a WhatsApp chat group containing five other members on nine occasions between March 26 and April 16 last year.

In a statement on Tuesday, the police said that on April 16, 2020, it received a report from a member of the public that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Singapore that day had allegedly been leaked online even though the health ministry had not officially released the figures yet.

Police investigations revealed that Zhao had allegedly shared new case statistics with members of a private chat group who were not authorised to receive the information.

Some members of the chat group then allegedly disseminated the numbers before the ministry officially released the information.

Sixty-four people who wrongfully received and communicated the information will be issued with warnings, said the police.

Zhao will be charged with unauthorised access to computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act and Tang will be charged with soliciting wrongful communication of information.

Both Zhao and Tang will return to court next month.

The Singapore police advise unauthorised recipients to delete and not further circulate any confidential information received.

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