To self-isolate or not? Woman receives Health Risk Warning SMS, but with stranger's identity indicated in the message

PHOTO: Lianhe Wanbao

One woman in Singapore was shocked to receive a Health Risk Warning (HRW) notification from the Ministry of Health (MOH), which instructed her to undergo self-isolation and take a PCR test.

The only thing is, the name indicated in the message wasn't hers

The woman, who wished to be identified only by her surname Lee, told Lianhe Wanbao that on Thursday (Sept 30), she had received the HRW notification which instructed her to undergo self-isolation and take a PCR test.

Upon taking a closer look at the message however, Lee noticed that her name was not indicated in the message.

Instead, said Lee: "It was a male name, and the identification number starts with T, so it should be a young person."

She guessed that the boy could have wrongly written the number of his close contact and that's how the message was sent to her.

Lee recounted that when she first got the message, her initial thought was that the name in the message was that of an infected person that she had come into contact with, before realising that it wasn't the case.

She tried to call the Ministry of Health hotline number several times to inform them of the error but was unsuccessful. "It makes me feel uneasy, wondering every morning if another text will come in," said Lee.

Another reader, a 38-year-old stockbroker with the surname Hong, told the Chinese evening daily that he'd received a Quarantine Order text last Tuesday that had another man's name indicated in the message.

The reader added that he was puzzled by the message, as other than the odd grocery run, he had mostly spent his days at home working.

However, he remained worried as he has a child with him at home. As a precaution, he chose to wear his face mask even in the house and took his temperature regularly.

Unlike Lee however, Hong managed to get through to the MOH hotline after several tries. After ascertaining that the message had been sent to the wrong person the staff on the line told Hong to ignore the message and that he would inform the authorities about the case.

Hong understands that the intended recipient is a Chinese national staying in a foreign worker dormitory.

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"However, the next day I received a call from another MOH staff who thought I was the foreign worker in question, so I had to explain myself again."

According to Hong, the worker has since been put on Quarantine Order.

When interviewed by Wanbao, both readers expressed hope that such lapses would not compromise Singapore's efforts in curbing the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

They added that such incidents should not be taken lightly, as it means the persons affected may not be aware of the need to self-isolate. As a result, they may still continue with their daily activities and come into contact with more people, potentially spreading the virus if they are found to be infected.

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