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Friday, Jul 19, 2024

Hong Kong nurse gets 6 months’ jail for forging Covid jab records

Hong Kong nurse gets 6 months’ jail for forging Covid jab records

Nurse and three others found to have conspired to frustrate the city’s efforts in boosting inoculation rates amid a surging fifth wave of infections, court finds.

A Hong Kong nurse has been jailed for six months for forging Covid-19 vaccination records to help six people circumvent government restrictions on entering certain premises early this year.

Kwun Tong Court on Friday sentenced Carmen Ho Ka-man, 34, and three others found to have conspired with her to frustrate the city’s efforts in boosting inoculation rates amid a surging fifth wave of infections.

Ex-window designer Cheng Nga-yi, 30, and her sister, former primary school teacher Cheng Sze-wai, 25, were each jailed for three months. Housewife Liu Hoi-yan, 42, received a lesser term of two months because of her guilty plea.

Residents must be inoculated to enter certain premises under the vaccine pass scheme.

Three other co-defendants – Liu’s parents and the family’s domestic helper – were earlier granted conditional discharges provided they agreed with the prosecution’s case.

Magistrate Minnie Wat Lai-man said the defendants’ offences had undermined the public’s confidence in the city’s health system and risked ruining the tremendous efforts put into combating the virus.

She noted the forgeries were clearly premeditated, and the nurse being the mastermind had betrayed the trust the authorities had in her.

“[Ho] should have made diagnoses on the health conditions of her co-defendants in a professional manner, but instead she conspired to deceive the government. Her conduct was truly disappointing,” the magistrate added.

Ho admitted in July that she had helped her friends and their families in getting around the vaccine pass scheme, which regulates entry into certain places based on the person’s inoculation status.

The arrangement, which went into effect on February 24 this year, covers premises such as shopping centres, supermarkets and restaurants, among others. The government has since extended the requirement until June 30 next year.

Ho was hired on a part-time basis by Quality HealthCare Medical Services to provide vaccination services at Kowloon Bay Sports Centre. She was barred from administering the shots to family and friends to avoid a conflict of interests.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption found that Ho had invited the Liu family and the Cheng sisters to receive sham injections at her vaccination booth on February 20, after hearing they feared side effects of the jabs.

Investigators retrieved 11 purportedly used vaccine vials from Ho’s booth, but only four were empty.

Ho pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud, with Liu Hoi-yan admitting one count of the same offence.

Liu’s parents – construction worker Liu Kwok-hung, 67, and housewife Siu Hang-yee, 70 – and domestic helper Mary Ann Villeza Marcelo, 39, were released on a 12-month bind-over order and warned they could be fined HK$2,000 if they committed any offence during that period.

The Chengs pleaded not guilty to the charge, with their lawyers pointing to the possibility they could have been among the four who had genuinely received the jabs. Counsel also highlighted the lack of evidence that the pair knew the sham injections were prearranged.

Wat dismissed those arguments on Friday, noting the pair had earlier told police they did not get the shots. The magistrate also found it impossible for the February 20 vaccination sessions to be a coincidence.

The court heard Ho had lost her job after the offences and had to take up two part-time roles to support her family of four.

Defence lawyers said Ho began questioning the legitimacy of her job after a resident vaccinated by the nurse accused her of “holding the candle to the devil”. The nurse also feared the vaccine’s side effects having seen a colleague collapse at work after receiving a shot.

Ho was “very remorseful” and thanked law enforcement and the court for preventing her from committing further offences, her counsel added.

Conspiracy to defraud is punishable by up to 14 years in jail, but capped at three years when the case is heard by a magistrate.

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