11 July 2024

A Singaporean woman was sentenced to five months in prison on Friday for hiding her meetings with a male friend from coronavirus contact tracers as she did not want her family to think she was having an affair.

Oh Bee Hiok, 65, met a close friend, 72-year-old Lim Kiang Hong, five times in the weeks before testing positive for Covid-19 in February, but deliberately withheld the information from the health ministry’s contact tracers, court documents said.

“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,” court documents said.

Officials found out about the meetings after reviewing parking records, CCTV footage, call records and credit card transactions.

After she was admitted to hospital with coronavirus, Oh spoke to Lim on the phone and asked him to keep their outings secret. He then tested positive for Covid-19 in March.

In sentencing Oh, Judge Marvin Bay said her reasons for withholding information were “selfish… within the pressing public interest need to control the pandemic”, according to broadcaster CNA.

“In this regard, the court must send a clear message that any act of withholding information likely to mislead contact tracers is totally unacceptable”, he added.

Oh pleaded guilty to the charge of hindering contact tracing efforts.

The maximum punishment is a fine of Sg$10,000 ($7,500), six months imprisonment, or both.

Singapore initially kept Covid-19 in check through rigorous contact tracing, but the virus later swept through dormitories housing low-paid migrant workers.

The city has reported more than 58,800 virus infections, but a relatively low death toll of 29.