Coronavirus: Trial begins for couple, one of whom was infected, for withholding information from officials

SINGAPORE – A man, who was infected with Covid-19, and his wife allegedly lied to officials that he was in isolation for almost a week before he was admitted to hospital, a court was told on Monday (Aug 17).

The court was also told that both offered differing accounts on where the man, Hu Jun, 38, actually stayed between Jan 22 and 29, which was in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore.

Both claimed that he had only gone out once for a stroll during that period.

Hu and his wife, Shi Sha, 36, face a single charge each of withholding information from an MOH officer on Hu’s whereabouts and activities during the period.

Shi faces three additional charges relating to providing false information to MOH officers.

The couple, who are represented by lawyer Dhanwant Singh, are contesting the charges.

The Straits Times understands that Shi holds a long-term visit pass and lives in Singapore with her two daughters, one of whom is attending a school here. Her husband joined them in January to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

An MOH statement in February said that Hu arrived in Singapore on Jan 22 from Wuhan, China, which was the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak then.

He was confirmed to be infected on Jan 31, subsequently recovered and was discharged from hospital on Feb 19.

In the meantime, MOH had initiated contact tracing to identify individuals who may have been exposed to Hu while he was symptomatic.

Shi was identified as a close contact and issued a quarantine order on Feb 1.

On the first day of the couple’s trial on Monday, epidemiologist Yang Yong and senior public health officer Georgina Lim testified on their interactions with Hu and Shi respectively.

Dr Yang, who works at Singapore General Hospital, conducted contact tracing on Hu on Jan 28, while Ms Lim dealt with Shi via three phone calls – one on Jan 30 and two on Feb 3.

Dr Yang testified that Hu said he had stayed at his friend’s apartment near the couple’s home, in Nathan Road, near River Valley Road, between Jan 23 and Jan 29 after developing symptoms such as a fever. Hu also said he went outside for a stroll only once, a claim his wife later repeated.

The court heard from Ms Lim that Shi instead said that she was in isolation at home with her husband.

But records provided by the Land Transport Authority showed that Shi had booked rides from private hire car service Grab to several locations – including Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road – during that period, said Ms Lim.

The records also showed that she booked a Grab ride from Studio M Hotel in Robertson Quay to Singapore General Hospital on Jan 29.

Ms Lim told the court this was contrary to what Shi had told her during all three calls – that she had flagged down “a blue taxi” from their home to take her husband to the hospital on that day.

If found guilty, Shi and Hu can be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000 for each offence.

The trial continues on Tuesday .

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