[UPDATE: This story was edited at 8.30pm on 17 May to include the response from Nanyang Technological University.]
SINGAPORE — A 40-year-old man was charged on Monday (17 May) with lying to a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researcher that he was unable to attend a session as he had been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19.
Paul Chan Kin Nang, a Singaporean, was handed a charge under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act for communicating a false message, as he had not tested positive for the virus, according to his charge sheet.
The document did not state Chan's position in the university, however an NTU spokesperson said that Chan was a member of the public who had volunteered to participate in a social science study conducted at the university, and had been due for a research session.
Chan allegedly sent the false message on 6 September last year at about 12.47pm to researcher Lau Zen Juen, by sending an email to the latter. He is said to have stated in the email, "Hi, I am unable to attend the session tomorrow as I am tested positive for Covid19 and is now quarantine in hospital."
According to the her laboratory's website, Lau is "currently working on projects investigating the cognitive neuroscience of deception and is also an avid contributor of several open-source softwares".
Responding to Yahoo News Singapore queries, an NTU spokesperson said that after Chan had sent the message, the university had checked with the authorities to verify his claim due to the need for contact tracing.
"When his claim was found to be false, a police report was made. He is no longer participating in the study," said the spokesperson.
The section of communicating a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act is a new one, added under amendments to the act in January last year. The offence carries a maximum jail term of three years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Chan will return to court on 14 June for a further mention of his case.
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