Couple convicted over hindering Covid-19 contact tracing

A married couple from China were convicted yesterday of offences including hindering health officers from carrying out their duties after the husband tested positive for Covid-19 last year.

Following a joint trial, District Judge Ng Peng Hong found the wife, Shi Sha, now 38, guilty of four charges under the Infectious Diseases Act.

In January last year, she deliberately withheld information when a health officer asked her about the whereabouts and activities of her husband Hu Jun, now 40.

The following month, she committed offences including lying to a health officer.

Hu was convicted of one charge under the Act after he deliberately withheld information when a health officer asked him about his whereabouts and activities.

The couple were the first two people to be charged under the Act in relation to the current pandemic. Shi was living in Singapore when her husband flew in 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 the virus nine days later. He was discharged from hospital on Feb 19 after recovering.

Shi was identified as a close contact and issued a quarantine order on Feb 1, after MOH initiated contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed to Hu.

During the trial last year, epidemiologist Yang Yong testified that Hu had said he stayed in his friend's apartment near the couple's home in Nathan Road between Jan 23 and Jan 29 after developing symptoms such as a fever.

Senior public health officer Georgina Lim testified that Shi had told her she was in isolation at home with her husband.

But records provided by the Land Transport Authority show that Shi had booked rides from Grab to several locations during that period, said Ms Lim.

The records also show that she booked a Grab ride from Studio M Hotel in Robertson Quay to the Singapore General Hospital on Jan 29.

Ms Lim testified that this was contrary to what Shi had told her - that she had flagged down "a blue taxi" outside their home to take her husband to the hospital that day.

Hu and Shi, who were offered bail of $10,000 each yesterday, are expected to be sentenced on Nov 10.

For each charge under the Act, a first-time offender can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

A repeat offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2021, with the headline 'Couple convicted over hindering Covid-19 contact tracing'. Subscribe