Deputy lead of Singapore’s MOH data unit charged under OSA with leaking classified Covid-19 information

Zhao Zheng at the State Courts on April 14, 2021. — CNA pic via TODAY
Zhao Zheng at the State Courts on April 14, 2021. — CNA pic via TODAY

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SINGAPORE, April 14 — The deputy lead of a data management unit started by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was today charged with leaking daily coronavirus case numbers 22 times between March and April last year.

Zhao Zheng, a 36-year-old Singaporean, faces 24 charges.

Twenty-two charges were related to her wrongfully sending the number of Covid-19 cases to a WeChat group comprising 49 other members, before MOH officially released the information to the public.

These offences are a breach of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). 

One charge came under the Computer Misuse Act, as Zhao allegedly accessed a government Covid-19 database to extract confidential information about a patient who tested positive for the virus at the request of a 36-year-old woman.

Her last charge, which comes under the OSA as well, pertained to her allegedly giving that woman the case status of that Covid-19 patient.

Tang Lin, the woman who requested the information, was also charged under the OSA today. 

The Singaporean faces 10 charges, including soliciting the wrongful communication of information.

Based on charge sheets, Tang also allegedly sent the number of Covid-19 cases, which she received from Zhao, to a WhatsApp chat group comprising five other members several times, before MOH released the information to the public. 

Based on Zhao’s page on the professional network LinkedIn, she had worked as a statistician at MOH since 2008 and last held the position of assistant director of population health analytics. TODAY has asked MOH if she is still employed there. 

The police said in a statement on April 23 last year that they had arrested a civil servant — Zhao — after receiving a report from a member of the public on April 16 that year. 

The number of confirmed virus cases in Singapore for that day had been leaked in an Instagram Story. Zhao was said to have also shared the figure with the WeChat group.

Some members of the group who were not authorised to receive the information allegedly further distributed it before MOH released the information.

The police said on Tuesday that another 64 people who had wrongfully received or communicated the information would be given stern warnings or written advisories for offences under the OSA.

Zhao and Tang will return to court on May 5.

Those convicted of wrongful communication of information under the OSA can be fined up to S$2,000 and jailed for up to two years.

Unauthorised access of computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act can also result in a jail term of up to two years and a S$5,000 fine.

In April last year, a 37-year-old public servant and her 38-year-old husband were arrested under the OSA for allegedly leaking a draft press statement on Covid-19 school closures, before it was made public.

Two months after that, the police arrested a 50-year-old public servant under the OSA for allegedly sharing information in a private WhatsApp chat about the Government’s plans after Singapore’s circuit-breaker partial lockdown to combat Covid-19. — TODAY

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