SINGAPORE — Two Chinese nationals were charged under the Infectious Diseases Act on Friday (28 February) amid efforts by authorities to carry out contact tracing and implement quarantine orders during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Both Chinese nationals, Hu Jun, 38, is from Wuhan while his wife Shi Sha, 36, resides in Singapore.
Hu, who was announced by the Ministry of Health on 31 January as Case 16, arrived in Singapore on 22 January and was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 on 31 January.
He developed symptoms on 23 January and then reported to the authorities that he had stayed at his home at Nathan Road until 29 January, when he took a taxi to Singapore General Hospital. He was then warded in an isolation room there. He fully recovered from the infection and was discharged from hospital on 20 February.
Shi had been identified as a close contact of Hu and was issued a quarantine order on 1 February.
Hu was charged with giving false information under the Act to Poh Cuiqin, a Ministry of Health officer, on 1 February. He was required to provide information on his whereabouts between 22 and 29 January. He allegedly lied to Poh that apart from a dinner at Ion Orchard and a walkabout in his neighbourhood of Loft@Nathan in Nathan Road, he had otherwise stayed indoors at his residence.
Shi faces a total of four charges. On two of the charges, she was required to inform Georgina Lim, a Ministry of Health officer, about the mode of transport that she and her husband took to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on 29 January 2020 and allegedly lied to Lim on 3 February that she flagged a blue taxi outside their home for the couple to go to SGH. She is also accused of giving false information to Lim on 30 January on the whereabouts and activities of Hu between 22 and 29 January, and lying on 1 February that she had not stayed at a hotel while she was required to be isolated at home under a quarantine order.
After the couple were charged, Hu left the State Courts and was spotted wearing a surgical mask and a pair of sunglasses. He drew up the hood of his jacket while he exited.
Shi left the building about half an hour later, accompanied by their lawyer Chung Ting Fai, and walked in an opposite direction from her husband. She was wearing a surgical mask, a pair of sunglasses and a sun hat and kept her head bowed while she walked behind Chung.
The couple were the first to be charged under the Act since the authorities said they would strictly enforce measures and sanctions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
MOH said that it initiates contact tracing to identify individuals who may have been exposed to a case that contracted the virus while he or she is symptomatic. Close contacts are monitored closely and may be quarantined, so that they can be identified and treated early if they develop the disease.
MOH was able to establish the couple’s actual movements through detailed investigations. In view of the “potentially serious repercussions” and the risk they could have posed to public health, MOH served the couple charges on Tuesday.
As of Thursday night, there have been 96 cases of the COVID-19 virus in Singapore, with 66 discharged.
MOH has identified and quarantined 2,887 close contacts. While 2,642 of these have completed their quarantine, 245 still remain in quarantine.
Any person convicted of an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 or to a jail term not exceeding six months, or to both, for the first offence.
The couple will return to court for the next mention of their case on 20 March.