Prank gone wrong: Teen admits to lying on social media about contracting Covid-19, being in ICU

PHOTO: Pixabay

SINGAPORE - A teenage boy's lies about contracting Covid-19 and being hospitalised in an intensive care unit (ICU) led to a friend, who was serving national service (NS) at the time, being sent home from Pulau Tekong to isolate.

Army personnel also had to disinfect the friend's bunk and make arrangements to isolate those who had been in contact with him. This disrupted the training schedule that day.

On Tuesday (Nov 2), Siew Hanlong, 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of communicating a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

The court heard that he had lied on social media about getting Covid-19 to play a prank on his friends.

At around 1am on May 23, he posted an image of a positive polymerase chain reaction test that he found online on his Instagram Stories, with the caption, "Guys... I got the new covid variant bye im (gonna) die."

He then posted a photo of himself in a hospital bed, with the caption, "in ICU right now farewell guys".

Siew had uploaded the post while he was at home and the photo was from his previous admission to hospital for an unrelated incident.

He removed the two posts 15 minutes after they went up but the damage had been done.

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His 19-year-old friend, who was serving NS at Pulau Tekong, woke up at around 4.45am that morning and saw his friends discussing Siew's posts in a WhatsApp group chat.

He was afraid that he might be infected with the coronavirus, as he had met Siew earlier. He tried to contact Siew to confirm the posts but did not get an answer.

Siew's friend then reported to his army superiors that he was a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case, and was sent home to isolate after taking a swab test.

It was only after he arrived home at around 11.15am that Siew responded that his Instagram Stories posts were meant as a joke.

District Judge Kessler Soh told Siew that he might think of the incident as a prank but it had "very serious consequences".

The judge then asked if he was sorry for what he had done, to which Siew said yes.

He is set to return to court to be sentenced on Dec 14.

For communicating a false message, Siew could be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to three years.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.