COVID-19: MOH suspends officer who leaked daily case updates, reviewing security protocol

Swab tests are conducted at STLodge migrant workers' dormitory during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore, in this April 15, 2020 photo obtained via social media. MINISTRY OF MANPOWER, SINGAPORE/Handout/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MUST ON SCREEN COURTESY MINISTRY OF MANPOWER, SINGAPORE
Swab tests are conducted at a migrant workers' dormitory in Singapore (PHOTO: Ministry of Manpower/Reuters)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has suspended the officer who was arrested for allegedly leaking the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Singapore.

It added in a media statement on Friday (24 April) that it is reviewing its processes to ensure that the necessary security protocols are in place.

On Thursday, the police said that the 35-year-old Singaporean female civil servant is being investigated for wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and unauthorised access to computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA).

The MOH said, “The officer has been suspended from work while police investigations are ongoing, and no longer has access to the Ministry’s confidential information.”

“MOH takes any wrongful access and communication of information by our staff seriously. Confidential information relating to COVID-19 cases is placed in a secured server that is only accessible by a restricted group of officers who require the information for their work.”

The officer had authorised access to the information as required for her work, but had allegedly used it for other unauthorised purposes, the MOH added.

Shared information on WeChat on several occasions

According to preliminary police investigations, the female officer – who is an authorised recipient of classified information on COVID-19 – had shared the number of new COVID-19 cases for 16 April with members in a private WeChat group. This occurred before MOH had officially released the figure.

Members in the WeChat group, who were not authorised to receive the classified information, further disseminated the information before MOH had publicly released the information.

Further investigations revealed that the woman had shared Singapore's daily COVID-19 case figures with the members in the WeChat group on several other occasions, again before MOH publicly released the information.

In addition, the woman had accessed a Government COVID-19 database without authorisation to retrieve confidential records of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, and provided the information to her friend.

A person who is convicted of the offence of wrongful communication of information under the OSA faces a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $2,000. A person who is convicted of unauthorised access to computer materials under the CMA faces a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

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