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Probation for teen who played prank on Instagram about getting Covid-19, being in ICU

SINGAPORE — A teenager was sentenced to nine months’ probation on Tuesday (Dec 14) for lying on social media that he had contracted Covid-19 and had been warded in an intensive care unit (ICU) in hospital.

Probation for teen who played prank on Instagram about getting Covid-19, being in ICU

Siew Hanlong, 19, was sentenced to nine months’ probation for lying on Instagram that he had contracted Covid-19 and had been warded in an intensive care unit.

  • Siew Hanlong, 19, put up a false Instagram post claiming he was seriously ill and hospitalised with Covid-19 to prank his friends 
  • His actions led to an acquaintance, who was serving National Service (NS) at the time, having to self-isolate 
  • Siew was on Dec 14 sentenced to nine months' probation for his actions

SINGAPORE — A teenager was sentenced to nine months’ probation on Tuesday (Dec 14) for lying on social media that he had contracted Covid-19 and had been warded in an intensive care unit (ICU) in hospital.

Siew Hanlong, 19, was attempting to prank his friends in the Instagram Stories he posted earlier this year. His actions led to his acquaintance, who was serving National Service (NS) at the time, leaving Pulau Tekong to isolate himself at home as a precaution.

Siew had pleaded guilty last month to two charges of transmitting false information under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

As part of his probation conditions, he has to perform 40 hours of community service and remain indoors from 11pm to 6am. His parents posted a bond of S$5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.

Probation is usually offered to first-time offenders between 16 and 21 years old. This does not result in a recorded criminal conviction and allows young offenders to continue with their education or employment while serving their sentences.

Siew’s mother previously told the court that he is working part-time while studying for a diploma, urging District Judge Kessler Soh to consider that he has “a very bright future ahead of him”.

The court heard that at about 1am on May 23, Siew decided to pull a prank on his friends by posting on Instagram that he contracted the coronavirus.

He searched online for an image of a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, saved it in his mobile phone and posted it in an Instagram Story with the caption: “Guys... I got the new covid variant bye im gna die”.

He then posted another image of himself in a hospital bed, captioning this with, “in ICU right now farewell guys”. This photo was from his previous admission to hospital for an unrelated incident.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Shin Hui told the court that Siew had not tested positive for Covid-19 and was at home at the time.

The youth removed the posts 15 minutes later but other people had already seen them.

His 19-year-old friend, who was serving NS on Pulau Tekong, woke up at about 4.45am that day and saw his friends discussing Siew’s posts in a WhatsApp chat group. Siew was also in the chat.

The other teenager grew concerned that he could have contracted Covid-19 himself, having met Siew earlier. He tried to contact Siew to get confirmation, but to no avail.

He then informed his army superiors that he was a close contact of a Covid-19 case, and was told to pack his belongings and go home after taking a swab test.

Army personnel also had to disinfect his bunk and make arrangements to isolate those who were in close contact with him, which disrupted the training schedule for the day.

After getting home, he isolated himself in his room. It was only at 11.15am that Siew responded and said that the Instagram Stories were a joke.

Those convicted of communicating a false message can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$10,000, or punished with both.

Related topics

crime Covid-19 coronavirus Instagram prank

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