The top 7 fake news about the Wuhan Virus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus—or the Wuhan virus—as a global emergency, with the outbreak continuing to spread outside China. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that currently, there are 8 confirmed cases of the virus in Malaysia thus far, while our neighbours to the south, Singapore, has a reported 16 cases.

https://twitter.com/KKMPutrajaya/status/1223518805822885888

However, another issue that has been rampant recently has been the sharing of fake news or false rumours—so much so that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission issued a warning that spreading fake news was an illegal offence that could lead to fines of up to RM100,000. In fact, 6 people have already been arrested by the local authorities in just a few days, with the offence governed by Section 505 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top 7 fake news about the Wuhan coronavirus—with the list ranked, of course, by level of ridiculousness.

1. Mandarin oranges give you the Wuhan virus

This probably takes the cake for being the most ridiculous story to have made the rounds. The story was being spread primarily via WhatsApp, and made the claim that after eating a mandarin orange, a prisoner had suddenly died from the Wuhan virus—pretty dramatic sounding stuff.

However, the Health Ministry was quick to debunk the story, urging Malaysians not to “spread or believe such news”.

Terdapatnya satu mesej yang palsu sedang ditularkan di Whatsapp. Mohon untuk tidak sebarkan atau percaya dengan berita…

Posted by KEMENTERIAN KESIHATAN MALAYSIA on Jumaat, 24 Januari 2020

2. Zombie-like behaviour from infected individuals

Some frankly ridiculous stories have surfaced on the web that claim that infected individuals in quarantined Wuhan have been acting like “zombies”. Reports from The Express and on social media depict residents in Wuhan collapsing, and quickly succumbing, to the coronavirus.

SEE ALSO:  1 Utama: WhatsApp message claiming over 50 people infected with Delta variant is fake news
https://twitter.com/KKMPutrajaya/status/1223169046452961285

However, the Health Ministry has assured the public that those that are infected by the novel coronavirus do not act like zombies. Instead, the infected individuals can recover their health—in fact, the mortality rate of the coronavirus is actually relatively low at 2–3%. For some context, the death rate for SARS, the deadly respiratory virus that claimed over 700 lives almost 20 years ago, was 10%.

3. The Health Ministry in Malaysia encourages visitors from China

A rumour spreading on social media claimed that Health Minister of Malaysia, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, had been encouraging tourists from China to visit Malaysia—so long as they wore face masks.

Lagi sebaran palsu. Sentiasa rujuk dengan sumber yang sah di saluran yang betul.KKM ada di semua platform media…

Posted by KEMENTERIAN KESIHATAN MALAYSIA on Rabu, 29 Januari 2020

However, the Heath Ministry explained on their Facebook page that the rumour was 100% false, along with a sound piece of advice: always refer to authentic sources from reputable channels for information.

4. 23-year-old man from India dies in Malaysia of coronavirus

A report claimed that a 23-year-old man from Tripura, India, died of the novel coronavirus in a hospital in Malaysia. However, the Health Ministry reportedly stated that the rumour was false:

“Based on information that we received as of 6pm on Jan 30, there is no record of any Indian national aged 23 recorded by our laboratory that tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). #FakeNews.”

Berdasarkan maklumat yang diterima sehingga jam 6 petang, 30 Januari 2020, lelaki warganegara India berumur 23 tahun…

Posted by KEMENTERIAN KESIHATAN MALAYSIA on Khamis, 30 Januari 2020

At the moment, 8 cases have been confirmed in Malaysia, although no deaths have been reported thus far.

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5. The most amazing remedies being shared

According to The Star, there has been a variety of videos and news reports being shared over platforms like WhatsApp, with varying degrees of… strangeness. From advice to use your hairdryer to disinfect your face and hands, to drinking 60-degree water, it’s pretty wild. Some users have even reported seeing posts in Facebook groups asking people to drink Dettol as a preventive measure.

Incredible.

On the local side of things, we’ve seen posts pop up on social media advertising antidotes to the Wuhan corona virus (and others) in the form of rasam. Whenever a medicinal product is advertised to be a remedy for… everything, it’s always a bad sign.

https://www.facebook.com/lkayurvedartc/posts/3047359898622115?__xts__[0]=68.ARANjcFX7nbPKc5TMEANll9PVyfR76Z-ESwV2_viPiuXoUITX5PgQwZ1mSeTAdudL4XagCwvLOXdI3CypiywK0_rMDv2qMMgK6Kd2FNkF7ExMrNebLAqjRApSUos76VBhWGrcrYkymzSIC7kTsAYc7wghmruZFbFmI72l_4kiWifU1DU1d2gIXALiUXfLX8MChKawjzhYQFLgMOXQCN_Wry1mZ9V5N3k_iGPhoOUsOhYhJYhurn4UG-EY9JTgD4S-4Q9UiR0mk5h1j7cyhXJSqOqt3a7cuqtNRwK3a3d_ct1LrDKtoUmgDhDD5_4x1MDcSzZ-L5QsYJHO2MOfm0lOzzJVQ&__tn__=-R

Sure, there might be medicinal or nutritional benefits to consuming rasam, but we’re pretty sure that this one isn’t an actual antidote. In any case, it certainly hasn’t been verified by any reputable authority.

6. Don’t go to your family clinic or hospital, simply call this number

According to the Ministry of Health, a message in Chinese has been shared on WhatsApp, which tells people not to visit their family clinics or—get this—the hospital, if they feel they “have pneumonia”

https://twitter.com/KKMPutrajaya/status/1222797649323024384

Instead, simply call a number for the “Communicable Disease Centre” (number in the message), and there will be a dedicated doctor to check on you. The best part? It’s free of charge. Definitely a fishy story.

In any case, it’s been rated as PALSU (false) by the Ministry, so that’s that. The number in the message, for your information, is apparently the number for Communicable Disease Control, a South Australian health body.

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7. False patient reports

This is probably the most common type of fake news you’ll come across. There have been many false reports of coronavirus victims, ranging from 3 Malaysian victims in Penang, to reports of the virus reaching the Sultan Abdul Halim hospital in Sungai Petani. Reports of a individual from China being admitted for the coronavirus in Penang was also deemed to be false, while a voice note being circulated on social media that claimed that there had been a death of a patient in Bentong has also been debunked.

In general, it’s safe to say that only reputable sources should be trusted when it comes to reports of such magnitude. While the potential of technology and connectivity is unbounded when it comes to sharing news, along with that comes a certain responsibility. If you aren’t sure of the authenticity of a bit of information, don’t share it.

And as we’ve previously discussed, the consequences of sharing fake news is pretty severe.

If you’d like to keep up with the latest updates from reputable sources, you can follow the Health Ministry on Facebook and Twitter. Meanwhile, you can also check out Sebenarnya, a portal that’s set up by MCMC to compile fake news identified by the authorities.

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