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Teen pleads guilty to playing prank on Instagram about contracting Covid-19, being in ICU

SINGAPORE — In a bid to play a trick on his friends, Siew Hanlong lied on social media that he had contracted Covid-19 and had been warded in an intensive care unit (ICU) in hospital.

  • Siew Hanlong falsely stated on Instagram that he had contracted Covid-19 and was in intensive care
  • That led an acquaintance to self-isolate and inform his National Service commanders that he was a close contact of a Covid-19 case 
  • Siew, 19, pleaded guilty to two charges of transmitting false information under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act

 

SINGAPORE — In a bid to play a trick on his friends, Siew Hanlong lied on social media that he had contracted Covid-19 and had been warded in an intensive care unit (ICU) in hospital.

Even though Siew took the Instagram Stories down 15 minutes later, the damage was done.

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.

Army personnel there 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.

Siew, 19, pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Nov 2) to two charges of transmitting false information under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

District Judge Kessler Soh called for a report to assess if he is suitable for probation, which 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 told the court that he is working part-time while studying for a diploma. She called him a “very sensible boy” and urged the judge 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.

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.

On Tuesday, District Judge Soh told him that he might think this was only a prank but it had “very serious consequences”. 

“Are you sorry for that?” the judge further questioned, to which Siew replied: “Yes.” He also said that he would not repeat this.

Siew remains out on bail pending the probation suitability report and will return to court on Dec 14.

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

Covid-19 coronavirus prank NS Instagram social media

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