VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Netizens share BASELESS post about 50 ‘infected’ workers

A July 13 Facebook (FB) post by a Malaysian insinuating that 50 employees of e-commerce company Shopee were infected with COVID-19 continues to circulate among Filipino netizens two weeks after it was published. This is not true.

Some users were also misled into thinking that the photo collage in the post showed a Shopee warehouse in the Philippines. The photos were all taken in Malaysia.

Reverse image search revealed that the photos were originally uploaded on July 3 by Kuala Lumpur-based news website Malaysiakini in its Instagram account. The caption says the uniformed officers were conducting “Op Patuh” or compliance operations at a warehouse in Shah Alam — the capital city of Selangor, Malaysia.

One of the photos was also carried by a separate July 3 news report of Malaysiakini, which explained that owners, workers, and customers of compounds that were inspected were issued with notices for “failing to comply with the standard operating procedures” being imposed in Malaysia to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other news outlets such as The Star and Free Malaysia Today also reported on the July 3 operations, further stating that a total of five establishments and six workers were fined that day for non-compliance with safety protocols.

Meanwhile, the rumor about the 50 Shopee personnel being infected with the coronavirus disease started going around after a photo of a Notice of Premise Closure Order issued on July 9 by the Malaysian Ministry of Health to a Shopee warehouse at Shah Alam, went viral.

The notice ordered the closure of the establishment in accordance with Section 18(1)(f) of Malaysia’s Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act of 1988, which allows authorized officers to “do any other act to prevent the onset or spread of an infectious disease”.

The notice did not mention anything about Shopee workers being infected with COVID-19. In a July 10 statement, the company itself also said that the closure order of its Shah Alam warehouse “has nothing to do” with the rumored COVID-19 cases and the July 3 inspection of the police.

Said warehouse already resumed operations after it was cleared by the Ministry of Health to reopen last July 13.

The baseless FB post circulated among Filipinos a day after President Rodrigo Duterte called the Delta and Lambda variants of the SARS-CoV-2 as “a cause of concern”.

The Delta strain was categorized by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern” due to its increased transmissibility. The Lambda variant was classified as a “variant of interest”.

The health department has said that as of July 25, there have been 119 reported Delta variant cases in the country, while the total number of recorded COVID-19 cases already exceeded the 1.5 million mark.

The baseless FB post has received over 36,000 reactions, 30,000 comments, and 122,000 shares.

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