Jail, fine for man who found out he had Covid-19, and told friends he had met to delete their messages

SINGAPORE - An undergraduate who met three friends to chat and smoke cigarettes together during the circuit breaker found out on June 8 last year that he had been infected with Covid-19.

Leon Chua Yi Yan then contacted the trio and told them to delete the text messages they had exchanged.

This was because he felt that their chats could serve as evidence that they had unlawfully met during the circuit breaker period, imposed between April 7 and June 1 last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

During that time, members of the public were not allowed to leave their homes without a valid reason or meet others outside for any social purpose.

Chua, 27, who told the court that he graduated from Nanyang Technological University earlier this year, pleaded guilty in a district court on Monday (July 26) to four charges under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

He was sentenced to six weeks' jail and a fine of $15,000. He will spend an additional nine weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

His three friends - Shu Shao Qiang and Jarren Ng Yong Jie, both 26, and Phan Chang Rong, 27 - had been fined earlier. All four men are Singaporeans.

The court heard that at around 9.40pm on May 14 last year, Chua, Ng and Phan went to a stairwell to smoke and chat. Three days later, the trio met again for a similar session, at around 10pm.

On May 27 last year, Chua met Shu outside the latter's home to smoke and chat. The pair met again less than two weeks later, at around 1.50am on June 8.

Chua found out later that day that he tested positive for Covid-19.

The court heard that during the initial contact tracing, he did not tell an officer-in-charge that he had met his three friends.

At around 11am on June 8 last year, Chua contacted Shu and told him about his positive test result.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim said: "(He) also informed Shu to delete their WhatsApp chat log as it would serve as evidence against them for meeting each other for a social purpose during the circuit breaker period."

Chua contacted Ng with a similar request and the latter complied. Chua also contacted Phan, who brushed him off.

On July 20 last year, Chua wrote a letter to the health minister confessing that he had met his friends on multiple occasions during the circuit breaker period.

Court documents did not state what had spurred him to do so.

He also admitted that he had endangered the lives of fellow Singaporeans.

The authorities then contacted the trio.

It was not mentioned if they had also been diagnosed with Covid-19.

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