Couple charged with withholding information say they feared contact tracers' calls were scams

Hu Jun and his wife Shi Sha had not been frank with contact tracers who called them to confirm their whereabouts. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Being a foreigner familiar with scam callers, it would be reasonable to expect Chinese national Hu Jun to be wary of callers claiming to be officials.

This was the argument put forward by lawyer Dhanwant Singh on Thursday (Aug 20), to explain why Hu, 38, and his wife Shi Sha, 36, had not been frank with contact tracers who called them to confirm their whereabouts from Jan 29 to Feb 3.

The couple have been charged with holding back information about Hu's whereabouts to contact tracers after he was confirmed to have been infected with Covid-19 on Jan 31.

The court heard that on Feb 4, Hu expressed his concerns and shared his experiences regarding scammers with the lead investigating officer in the case as he feared the contact tracers who called him were not legitimate.

In cross-examining investigation officer Chin Shan How, who is a senior manager at the Ministry of Health's enforcement branch, Mr Singh said: "(With Hu) being a foreigner and not a frequent traveller, there is a vast difference between face-to-face interview (and those held) over the phone."

The court also heard that this was the first time Hu had been interviewed by an official in person. Hu then explained to Mr Chin about the trips that he had failed to declare to contact tracers over the phone earlier.

"You had interviewed him face to face and he was able to verify who you were and... was able to reflect things better," said Mr Singh to Mr Chin.

Mr Chin told the court that he could not comment on why Hu answered differently in person compared with when he was asked over the phone.

The court heard that on Feb 4, Mr Chin went to the hospital ward where Hu was being isolated to find out why the Chinese national had failed to tell contact tracers about certain places that he had visited after arriving in Singapore on Jan 22 from Wuhan, then the epicentre of the coronavirus.

Mr Chin testified that during his interview with Hu, he asked Hu about his wife's Grab travel records, and Hu was then able to explain these trips the couple took.

The trial continues on Friday, with more witnesses being called to the stand.

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