Civil servant arrested for leaking number of new coronavirus cases in Singapore, retrieving Covid-19 patient’s records without authorisation

The number of daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in Singapore for April 16 had been leaked on Instagram before MOH officially released the figure.
The number of daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in Singapore for April 16 had been leaked on Instagram before MOH officially released the figure.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM MOH.GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - A civil servant has been arrested after she allegedly shared the number of new Covid-19 cases in Singapore with members in a private group who were not authorised to see the information.

In a statement on Thursday (April 23), the police said that they had arrested the 35-year-old Singaporean woman under the Official Secrets Act and Computer Misuse Act.

The police received a report on the incident on April 16 at 7.43pm from a member of the public that the number of daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Singapore for that day had been leaked on an Instagram story post, even though the Ministry of Health (MOH) had not officially released the figure.

Preliminary investigations found that the woman had shared the number of new Covid-19 cases for April 16 – which was 728 – with members in an online private WeChat group who were not authorised to receive the classified information.

The members of the group then disseminated the information before the MOH officially released the announcement in its daily update.

Further investigations found that the woman had shared the daily Covid-19 case figures with the WeChat group on several other occasions.

The civil servant also accessed a government Covid-19 database without authorisation to retrieve confidential records of a patient who tested positive for the virus, and gave the information to her friend.

The police are investigating the case.

This comes after the MOH said last week it had made a police report on possible leaked data and that the police were investigating the leak.

 
 
 
 

The ministry also decided to release preliminary figures on new coronavirus cases last Friday afternoon instead of announcing them later in the evening like it often does. It has been doing so daily since.

Those found guilty of wrongful communication of information under the OSA can be fined up to $2,000 and jailed for up to two years.

The police also warned that unauthorised recipients should not further circulate the confidential information received, as they may be similarly liable under the OSA.

If found guilty of unauthorised access to computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act, the woman can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to two years.