VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts about coronavirus dead in Italy MISLEAD with old, unrelated photo

Netizens on Facebook (FB) have revived a six-year-old image showing numerous coffins lined up inside a warehouse, misleadingly claiming it to be of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fatalities in Italy.

On March 19 and 20, at least three FB users uploaded a screengrab of what appears to be an Instagram Story update. It features a photo of dozens of brown coffins arranged in three rows, with a text graphic that read: “In case you’re still not convinced to stay home for you & ur beloved ones… Here’s a picture from Italy!”

The posts are misleading.

Running a reverse image search of the coffin photo reveals it was indeed taken in Italy but it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, it’s an Oct. 5, 2013 photo taken by Getty Images photographer Alberto Pizzoli of caskets for victims of a shipwreck that day off Lampedusa island.

Other photographers’ shots of the same scene state that it was taken inside the hangar of Lampedusa airport. The tragedy took the lives of 366 migrants who boarded a boat to Europe to escape from Africa and the Middle East.

The spread of the misleading photo online began the same day 15 military trucks were seen transporting corpses of COVID-19 fatalities from the Italian city of Bergamo to other places in the country, as cemeteries and crematoriums in the city could no longer accommodate the volume of bodies turning up as a result of the current pandemic.

As of writing, Italy has recorded over 74,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases. It has surpassed China, where the outbreak began, in terms of COVID-19-related deaths, tallying over 7,500 deaths compared to the Asian country’s more than 3,000 fatalities, according to a Johns Hopkins case tracker.

The three misleading FB posts have an accumulated total of almost 180 reactions, more than 50 comments, and over 400 shares from social media users.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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