Pofma warning given to woman who claimed child Covid-19 death in KKH was covered up

In August 2021, a woman alleged that a child had died from Covid-19 at KKH and it was deliberately not reported. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A conditional warning has been given to a Singaporean woman who claimed last August that a child died of Covid-19 at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) and it was deliberately not reported.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office said in a statement on Thursday (March 31) that following an investigation, it found that the 47-year-old woman had concocted the false statement based on hearsay from an acquaintance.

The Pofma Office said the conditional warning was issued to the woman for "making a statement knowing or having reason to believe that it is false and likely to harm the public interest".

The falsehood caused public alarm and ran counter to efforts to combat the Covid-19 virus, it added.

This is the first such warning issued by the Pofma Office.

Investigation showed that the woman was aware that no such death of a pre-schooler had been reported but she went ahead to post the falsehood.

It was also found that she had taken steps to evade identification by using a social media account with a fictitious name to post the false statement, and further falsely represented that she had "permission from girl's mummy to post on FB".

The Pofma Office then issued a 24-month conditional warning to the woman.

If she reoffends during this period, she can be prosecuted for the original crime.

Under Section 7 of Pofma, a person convicted of an offence can be fined up to $50,000 or jailed for up to five years, or both.

The Pofma Office said: "Online falsehoods that sow public confusion affect lives and harm society. The Government takes a serious view of the deliberate communication of these false statements."

In August last year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it was aware of a false statement circulating online in a Facebook post by a user, Eileen Loh, on Aug 14.

In her post, she had alleged that a three-year-old had died from Covid-19 at KKH and that the death was deliberately not reported.

According to MOH, as at Aug 14, there had been no case of any child who had died from Covid-19 at KKH or any other hospital in Singapore.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung had then instructed the Pofma Office to issue a general correction direction to Facebook, which had to carry a correction notice.

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