Singapore to Prosecute Website for Coronavirus Misinformation

A Government Technology Agency (GovTech) staff demonstrates Singapore's new contact-tracing smarthphone app called TraceTogether, as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Singapore on March 20, 2020. - The mobile app using Bluetooth technology developed by GovTech in collaboration with the Ministry of Health informs user who had close …
CATHERINE LAI/AFP via Getty Images

Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced Sunday it launched criminal investigations against the owners of a website that allegedly published false statements about the Chinese coronavirus in direct violation of the city-state’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), the Straits Times reported Monday.

The Singapore-based website, called Truth Warriors, “published claims that vaccinated countries have the most cases and deaths per million population, and the least inoculated nations have the fewest cases and deaths per million population,” according to the newspaper. “It also stated that vaccines do not prevent the spread of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus].”

Singapore’s Health Ministry rejected these claims as false in a statement issued October 24.

“The weight of international evidence shows categorically that vaccines reduce COVID-19 infection, as well as serious illness and mortality rates from COVID-19 infection,” the press release read.

In the same statement, the Health Ministry said it would seek criminal charges against the website’s operators for their alleged “deliberate communication of … falsehoods.”

The ministry has invoked Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), known colloquially as a “fake news” law, to pursue criminal investigations against Truth Warrior’s owners and operators.

“Under the Pofma, individuals who do not comply with a correction direction can be jailed for up to a year or fined up to $20,000, or both,” the Strats Times noted on Monday.

“Websites which receive three correction directions within six months can be designated a Declared Online Location (DOL) by the authorities [under POFMA],” according to the newspaper, which is published in Singapore.

“The Pofma prohibits the provision of financial support to DOLs for the purposes of supporting, helping or promoting ‘the communication of false statements of facts,'” the Straits Times detailed. “It also allows the authorities to order an Internet service provider or intermediary to disable access to a DOL.

Health officials conduct Covid-19 screening on migrant workers who arrived back from Malaysia and Singapore in Surabaya on April 28, 2021, before they are quarantined. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto / AFP) (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Health officials conduct Covid-19 screening on migrant workers who arrived back from Malaysia and Singapore in Surabaya on April 28, 2021. (JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty)

The Truth Warriors website indicated that Chinese coronavirus vaccines “do not prevent the spread of Covid-19.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s official website, “the risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as there is continued community transmission of the virus.” SARS-CoV-2 is the formal name for the Chinese coronavirus.

The CDC acknowledged the phenomenon of “breakthrough” coronavirus cases — or infections contracted by people who have already been fully vaccinated against the disease — indicating that future transmission of the Chinese coronavirus may not be prevented by currently available vaccines.

“Early data suggest infections in fully vaccinated persons are more commonly observed with the Delta variant than with other SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the U.S. health agency noted. “Infections with the Delta variant in vaccinated persons potentially have reduced transmissibility than infections in unvaccinated persons, although additional studies are needed.”

“Until recently, scientists were unsure whether fully vaccinated people who became infected with COVID-19 could transmit it to others,” Yale Medicine wrote on August 11, “but the CDC report released in late July made it clear that some vaccinated people can get Delta in a breakthrough infection — and may be contagious.”

Yale News referred to a CDC report last updated on August 26.

“[N]ew data began to emerge that the Delta variant was more infectious and was leading to increased transmissibility when compared with other variants, even in some vaccinated individuals,” the CDC wrote.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Mount Elizabeth hospital vaccine centre in Singapore on September 7, 2021. ( ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty)

“Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others,” the health agency affirmed.

“‘[B]reakthrough’ cases are not the rare events the term implies,” Science magazine wrote on August 16.

“As of 15 August, 514 Israelis were hospitalized with severe or critical COVID-19, a 31 percent increase from just 4 days earlier. Of the 514, 59 percent were fully vaccinated,” the academic journal reported. “Of the vaccinated, 87 percent were 60 or older.”

“There are so many breakthrough infections that they dominate and most of the hospitalized patients are actually vaccinated,” Uri Shalit told Science. The journal identified Shalit as “a bioinformatician at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) who has consulted on COVID-19 for the [Israeli] government.”

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