Don't believe everything being forwarded to you about the Wuhan virus outbreak.
This article was updated on 7 Feb, 2020.
Singapore confirmed its first imported case of the Wuhan coronavirus on Jan 23. Since then, we have seen a spike in forwarded chain messages on WhatsApp and other message platforms, along with viral news from questionable sources on social media.
The spread of fake news has been so rampant that the government lifted the temporary Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) exemptions on Friday, Jan 31. This means that a number of search engines and social media platforms must now comply with general correction directions under the fake news law.
Here are some examples of fake news being spread in Singapore regarding the coronavirus. This is an unfolding story; we will continue adding to this list as the news unfolds.
1. Individual who supposedly died of the virus in Singapore
On Jan 26, a HardwareZone Forum post claimed a 66-year-old man died of a virus which caused him to develop pneumonia.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has clarified that this was untrue and that there had been no deaths related to the coronavirus in Singapore as of Sunday, Jan 26.
A general correction notice was also issued by the POFMA office to SPH Magazines, which operates the HardwareZone Forum.
2. Message from Prince of Wales Hospital ward manager
Many received a forwarded message on WhatsApp allegedly written by a Prince of Wales Hospital ward manager, claiming that it is more important to sanitise and wash your hands than to wear a mask. The message also added that the virus is not airborne.
The Ministry of Health group director of operations, Koh Peng Keng, has advised unwell members of the public to wear surgical masks to reduce the spread of the virus.
Both sanitising your hands and wearing masks for those falling sick are crucial in preventing the spread of the virus.
3. Coronavirus patients being sent to only two hospitals
There were messages forwarded warning Singaporeans to avoid going to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Claiming that patients from Wuhan will be sent to these two hospitals, the message advises Singaporeans to go to National University Hospital or private hospitals instead.
All public hospitals in Singapore are capable of treating patients carrying the Wuhan coronavirus. As major hospitals are equipped with isolation rooms, patients tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus will be treated on site.
4. Avoid going to certain places
On 1 Feb, gov.sg addressed a WhatsApp message being spread around about places to avoid in Singapore.
There is no need to avoid places that an infected person has been to, as it generally requires prolonged exposure to catch the virus.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also assured the public that sanitation and hygiene advisories have been issued to places with high public access.
5. Woodlands MRT closing
On Jan 28, Facebook posts alleging that Woodlands MRT was closed for disinfection were being circulated.
The Ministry of Transport has clarified that Woodlands MRT was operating and that the claims were simply untrue.
6. Quarantine allowance for foreigners and tourists
Following the announcement that an allowance of $100 will be given to individuals who are being quarantined, people began making claims that the money will be given to quarantined foreigners and tourists.
Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, countered the false claims on Facebook, reiterating that the allowance is given to Singapore-based employers and self-employed Singaporeans/PRs under quarantine.
7. School closure due to virus outbreak
A tweet about the closure of school was being spread on WhatsApp on Feb 7. It was allegedly tweeted by Channel News Asia.
However, Channel News Asia has clarified that it is fake news, and that they did not send out such a tweet.
It turned out to be a photoshopped image of another tweet posted by Channel News Asia.
There is no news about schools closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, but school assemblies and excursions have been suspended during this period.
Standing together against fake news
Fake news can cause unrest and unnecessary anxiety to the public, and take up precious time and resources that could be better spent fighting the virus.
Before you speculate or forward messages regarding the Wuhan coronavirus, make sure to check the reliability of the sources and look out for official statements from the relevant authorities.
Let’s do our part as Singaporeans to stop forwarding rumours and spreading misinformation
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