Singapore has charged an official with leaking daily COVID-19 case numbers as many as 22 times last year. The arrested woman was the deputy lead of the Data Management Unit under the Ministry of Health (MOH). She was arrested in April last year, at the zenith of the coronavirus crisis.
The former official, named Zhao Zheng, was the deputy lead of the data unit and was the authorized official receiving confidential information the pandemic. She had allegedly released daily case numbers without official permission.
Singapore charged her on Wednesday with 20 charges under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for wrongful communication of information, the Channel News Asia reported.
Information Passed on to WeChat group
The channel reported, citing investigation team, that the 36-year-old sent sensitive information Covid positive to a WeChat group with 49 members. This happened in March and April last year.
In defence, the lawyer of Zhao, Diana Ngiam, said her client was "under immense pressure" and that the times were unprecedented.
"MOH takes a very serious view of any wrongful access and communication of information by our staff," a spokesperson of the ministry said.
Another woman, who is not a public official, was also charged along with Zhao. The woman identified as Tang Lin Tang had allegedly asked Zhao pass on to her information regarding a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19.
In turn, Tang sent the confidential information to a WhatsApp chat group. Subsequently, a member of the public complained that Covid data was published on the internet before the government released the official data.
"The alleged offence took place in April 2020. The officer was suspended from work once MOH was informed that the police had started investigations and access to the ministry's confidential information was also terminated ... Following the incident, MOH has reviewed and tightened our information security protocols and processes," the ministry said, according to Yahoo News.
If the charges are proved, the accused will get a prison term of up to two years and a fine of up to $5,000.