Pofma invoked against website that claimed cover-up on coronavirus case numbers

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong instructed the Pofma office to issue a correction direction to the Singapore States Times Facebook page. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOV.SG

An online post claiming 1,146 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection on Friday, with a total of 5,573 confirmed cases in Singapore, is false.

There were 623 confirmed cases as of noon on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 5,050, with no cover-up from the Ministry of Health (MOH), said the Government as it invoked the fake news law against website Singapore States Times.

Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) office yesterday to issue a correction direction to the website's Facebook page for its "multiple false statements" on MOH's reporting of Covid-19 cases.

The post claimed Mr Gan had ordered the reported numbers to be halved to minimise public panic, by reporting numbers in the afternoon instead of later at night.

It also claimed other kinds of cover-up regarding Covid-19 reporting by the authorities, and that another website, The States Times Review, had called out the Government and MOH on the cover-up. It said MOH had to comply with The States Times Review's post.

However, the Government has clarified that there was no instruction given by Mr Gan or the Government to halve or under-report the number of cases.

For the purpose of updating the number of new cases of Covid-19 per 24-hour period, MOH has always used noon as the cut-off time since the onset of Covid-19, said the Government on its fact-checking website Factually.

The Government said MOH's daily press statements publish information on all confirmed cases, including the number of imported cases, and the linked and unlinked cases at that point in time.

MOH's daily reports on the situation and an overview of cases can be publicly accessed on its website.

It added that MOH does not act and has not acted in compliance with any of The States Times Review's posts.

The Pofma directive would require Singapore States Times to display a correction notice and provide access to the accurate information. It is not compulsory for Singapore States Times to take down the post or make edits to its content, and the directive does not impose criminal sanctions.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 19, 2020, with the headline Pofma invoked against website that claimed cover-up on coronavirus case numbers. Subscribe