Singapore — A housewife who was infected by the Covid-19 virus in February 2020 and was a part of the Safra Jurong cluster with 47 accounted for cases has been sentenced to five months in jail for deliberately not disclosing information crucial to contact tracing.
On Friday (Jan 8), the court hearing of 65-year-old Oh Bee Hiok revealed her offences after investigators discovered information through parking records proving she had kept vital details for contact tracing purposes.
According to a straitstimes.com report, Oh was diagnosed with Covid-19 last Feb 26 but did not tell the Ministry of Health (MOH) that she had met a close male friend multiple times earlier the same month.
Oh was afraid that others would assume she was having an affair with 71-year-old Lim Kiang Hong. He also tested positive for the virus on March 20 last year.
The parking records uncovered by investigators pertained to cars driven by the two individuals.
MOH officers then interviewed Mr Lim and the latter confirmed that they had met multiple times between Feb 4 and 20 last year.
Oh had visited Safra Jurong on Feb 15 for a Chinese New Year Celebration in the ballroom of the Joy Garden restaurant. She was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on Feb 24 after contracting a fever. She tested positive for Covid-19 two days later.
It was an epidemiologist, Dr Yang Yong, who first conducted contact tracing with Oh to establish her activities during the month.
Oh disclosed she went grocery shopping at the Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah wet markets three times a week. She also celebrated her husband’s birthday with the rest of the family on Feb 22.
Another two MOH officers interviewed Oh in February and March 2020 separately to confirm her activities. She continued to not disclose her meetings with Mr Lim.
After the parking records were brought to light, Oh admitted her meetings on March 8 last year.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said: “The accused explained that she would usually meet Lim on Tuesdays and Thursdays for lunch, tea or dinner, as she did not have to cook, and her husband would be away playing badminton.”
“She did not want her family or Lim’s family to find out that they were going out so frequently, as she thought that their family and friends would suspect that they were in a romantic relationship and spread rumours about them being in an extra-marital affair.”
Oh’s lawyer, Goh Teck Wee, told District Judge Marvin Bay that she did not infect Mr Lim. She did, however, transfer the virus to her grandson. The defence pleaded for a “stiff fine” in place of a jail term.
The judge, however, described contract tracing as an essential tool in Singapore’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link. While I would understand Madam Oh’s motivations and desire to maintain the secrecy of her meetings with Mr Lim, I agree that these are self-serving and selfish reasons, within the pressing public interest need to control the pandemic,” he added.
Oh intends to appeal against her sentence and bail was set at S$15,000. She could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to S$10,000 for her offence.
Send in your scoop to firstname.lastname@example.org