Couple jailed for lying to contact tracers about whereabouts

A woman who repeatedly hindered a health officer from carrying out her duties amid the Covid-19 outbreak by withholding information and giving false information was sentenced to six months' jail yesterday.

Shi Sha, 38, had earlier been convicted of four charges under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Yesterday, her husband, Hu Jun, 40, was sentenced to five months' jail after being convicted of a charge under the Act.

He had deliberately withheld information from another health officer.

Following a joint trial, District Judge Ng Peng Hong convicted the Chinese nationals on Oct 26. They were the first two people to be charged under the Act in relation to the pandemic.

Shi was living in Singapore when her husband flew here from Wuhan, which was the epicentre of Covid-19 at the time.

In an earlier statement, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said Hu arrived in Singapore on Jan 22 last year and was confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 nine days later.

He recovered and was discharged from hospital on Feb 19. Shi was identified as his close contact and issued a quarantine order on Feb 1 after MOH initiated contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed to him.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh said in his submissions that the couple had lied to contact tracers about their whereabouts and activities in Singapore between Jan 22 and 29 last year to protect their privacy.

DPP Koh also said the couple had claimed they did not lie to the contact tracers. "According to them, they knew that they had to cooperate with MOH's contact tracing efforts and, indeed, were doing their level best to provide complete and accurate information to MOH."

The couple were represented by lawyers Steven John Lam and Fiona Oon.

Yesterday, DPP Koh urged the court to sentence Shi to eight months' jail and her husband to a shorter term of five months. He told Judge Ng this was a "high culpability, high severity" case and the couple were willing to "place their personal interests at the forefront".

The defence team asked for Shi to be fined $20,000 and Hu's fine to be set at $10,000. Mr Lam said his clients "generally had good character" and that Hu had got himself isolated after displaying symptoms of Covid-19. He added that Shi had done likewise as she had been her spouse's close contact.

The couple were offered bail of $15,000 each as they intend to appeal against their convictions and sentences.