A Singaporean teenage boy, 19, who cried wolf on social media about dying of Covid-19 as a prank -- just once, for a short while -- unwittingly set off a chain of events that kept snowballing until he ended up in court.
His little joke led to his acquaintance in National Service getting sent home as a precautionary measure, caused a bunk on Pulau Tekong to undergo deep cleaning, and disrupted the training schedule for that day.
Pleaded guilty for public nuisance
The prankster, Siew Hanlong, 19, pleaded guilty on Nov. 2 to two counts of knowingly transmitting a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
Details of the case, which are almost comical on hindsight but also serve as a warning against taking public health issues too lightly during this pandemic, were reported by CNA and The Straits Times.
At about 1am on May 23, 2021, Siew, who was at home, decided he wanted to play a prank on his friends.
The student, posted a photo on Instagram Stories showing a positive PCR test, which he found online, with the caption: "Guys I got the new Covid variant bye I'm gonna die."
Another photo of him in a hospital bed was accompanied with the caption: "In ICU right now farewell guys."
The photo of him in hospital was taken previously when Siew was warded for an unrelated incident.
Posts up for short while
Siew then deleted the the posts about 15 minutes later.
But the pictures was seen by others and began circulating.
One of those who saw the posts was Siew's acquaintance, a 19-year-old full-time national serviceman on Pulau Tekong.
Caused NSF to be worried
The NSF had woken up at about 4.45am and saw his friends discussing in their WhatsApp group chat about Siew's Instagram Stories.
The NSF, worried that he had met Siew before May 23, tried but failed to contact the prankster.
So, the NSF sent his superiors Siew's Instagram Stories and let them know he was a close contact.
Caused chain of events to unfold
The NSF was made to take a swab test and was sent home, where he was isolated in his room by himself.
His Pulau Tekong bunk was disinfected, while the day's training schedule was disrupted.
NSF made police report
When Siew replied to his NSF friend at 11:15am the same day to inform him that the Instagram Stories were a joke, the NSF told his father and superiors about it and then made a police report.
In court, Siew said he was sorry when the judge asked him if he was, ST reported.
Siew also said he would not do such a thing again.
This was after the judge told Siew his actions carried serious consequences.
A probation suitability report was called for Siew.
Siew's mother told the judge her son, who is studying for a diploma, was remorseful and that he has a bright future ahead, CNA reported.
Sentencing has been adjourned to Dec. 14, 2021.
For knowingly transmitting a false message, Siew could be jailed for up to three years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.
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