Wuhan man who contracted COVID-19 accused of lying on stand

Chinese nationals Hu Jun, 38, and his wife Shi Sha, 36, who were charged under the Infectious Diseases Act, walking outside the State Courts building on 28 February 2020. (PHOTOS: Wan Ting Koh/Yahoo News Singapore)
Chinese nationals Hu Jun, 38, and his wife Shi Sha, 36, who were charged under the Infectious Diseases Act, walking outside the State Courts building on 28 February 2020. (PHOTOS: Wan Ting Koh/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A Chinese national on trial for failing to disclose the locations he was at while he was infected with COVID-19 claimed that a contact tracer had not given him the chance to elaborate, and that he was suffering from a fever and chills when being interviewed.

During his cross-examination by the prosecution on Thursday (1 July), Hu Jun, 39, also revealed to the court that he had a degree in medicine, and that he was a police officer for about eight years after graduating from a university in Wuhan.

Hu, and his wife Shi Sha, 36, were the first to be charged under the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) earlier this year after it was revealed that they had possibly lied about their whereabouts for a week in January last year. Hu had arrived in Singapore on 22 January from Wuhan, at a time when the pandemic was beginning to spread across its borders.

He developed COVID-19 symptoms a day after his arrival here and sought treatment at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on 29 January. He was then placed in an isolation room and tested positive for the virus on 31 January. He recovered from the infection and was discharged on 20 February.

He is currently contesting one charge of hindering a public health officer, epidemiologist Yang Yong, by deliberately withholding information about his alleged visits to six locations between 22 and 29 January.

Hu is believed to have visited the Long Beach Seafood @ Stevens restaurant and Marina One Residences on 22 January; the Chinese embassy in Singapore, Ngee Ann City mall and Intercontinental Singapore Hotel on 24 January; as well as the Studio M Hotel on 28 January.

Under questioning by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Timotheus Koh, Hu told the court that he had been a policeman with the propaganda unit in the public security system.

“Besides dealing with the media, very often we will have to go down to a police station to source for news together with a civil policeman,” said Hu through a Mandarin interpreter.

DPP Koh then asked, “What about some things that the police stand for like law, order and security? Do these things resonate with you?”

Hu replied, “I think as a youth I’m generally interested in investigation and it gives fulfilment when a case is resolved.” Hu later clarified that he was not directly involved in investigations, but had followed the “civil police” in their work.

Hu switched career to be a financial advisor in 2014.

Hu's medical training

During Hu’s fourth visit to Singapore on 22 January last year, he had already been aware of the COVID-19 virus.

DPP Koh asked, “Given your medical training you would agree that an infectious disease needs to be dealt with seriously?” Hu replied yes, agreeing that the COVID-19 was a serious disease.

“And you yourself were a victim of this disease?” DPP Koh asked.

In reply, Hu said, “Until now I’m not too sure if I am a confirmed case,” adding that he “highly likely” sustained the same symptoms from an “ordinary fever or flu”.

Asked if he would described his condition as “mild, moderate, or serious”, Hu replied “should be mild”.

During Hu’s interview with Dr Yang, conducted via WeChat on the day he was admitted to hospital, Hu had claimed that he had left his home on only two occasions – for dinner at Rendezvous Hotel at Orchard on 22 January, and a walk around his home on 24 January.

Asked why he had not told Dr Yang about his other locations, including the Chinese embassy, Hu gave three reasons, that it had slipped his mind; that Dr Yang had not asked open-ended questions; and that Hu had been suffering from chills.

DPP Koh then questioned Hu about his visit to the Chinese embassy on 24 January. Hu had gone there with his daughter and wife for passport matters.

Asked DPP Koh, “So this is an important administrative visit?…For an important person in your life, your daughter?” Hu replied yes to both questions.

“So an important visit to do something important for an important person in your life, you can forget that visit, Mr Hu?” DPP Koh asked.

Hu answered, “Because at that time the one-week advanced booking was by my wife. And our stay at the embassy was very short, I was accompanying my daughter to watch TV while my wife proceeded to deal with an application matter.”

DPP Koh then said, “So it is your wife’s fault that you cannot remember this important trip for an important person, Mr Hu?” Hu paused a moment before answering, “no”.

DPP Koh asked why Hu could remember the time he spent at the embassy but forgot to tell Dr Yang about it.

Hu replied, “It’s not that I forgot to tell Dr Yang, it was when I communicated with Dr Yang the questions he asked were very specific… and I was in the ward and...I had chills and I was shivering continuously and I could not control my limbs .

“At that time, Dr Yang was very understanding. And after that on my own initiative I gave my wife’s number to Dr Yang so that they could contact each other. So that they can have specific and complete information.”

Open-ended questions

DPP Koh then pointed out that Hu had described his illness as mild when asked earlier.

“Now you’re telling the court that you were suffering from chills and that you were shivering and not in a good enough state to answer Dr Yang?”. Hu replied “yes”.

DPP Koh said, “I put it to you that you were well enough to understand what Dr Yang was saying and to respond to his questions?” Hu agreed to the statement.

Later in the trial, DPP Koh asked Hu the kind of questions that Dr Yang had asked him in the interview, and Hu replied, “He asked ‘What time did you arrive in Singapore?’… ‘How did you leave the airport?’…'What did you do after you reached home?’.”

DPP Koh replied, “But you said he did not ask you open-ended questions, this question is open-ended, isn’t it?” Hu agreed.

Hu later admitted that Dr Yang did ask open-ended questions.

However, he denied lying when he earlier claimed that Dr Yang did not ask open-ended questions.

DPP Koh said, “I put it to you that the questions that Dr Yang asked were open-ended and you had the opportunity to elaborate."

Hu maintained that Dr Yang had not given him the opportunity to elaborate.

The trial continues.

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