VERA FILES FACT CHECK: No novel coronavirus in PH; YouTube channel publishes report with FALSE HEADLINE

As the number of people infected with the new deadly coronavirus climbed to over 4,500 globally, a Filipino YouTube channel published a report falsely stating in its headline that the virus has reached the Philippines.

YouTube channel Kabisnes — managed by a certain John Perez, who self-produces radio-show-type reports on current events — uploaded on Jan. 25 the misleading 10-minute video. It claimed that the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV), which appears to have originated from Wuhan city in China, has reached the country.

Shared on Facebook, its headline currently reads, “CORONAVIRUS NASA PILIPINAS NA | MAG INGAT SA KUMAKALAT NA VIRUS AT ALAMIN KUNG ANONG DAPAT GAWIN (Coronavirus, already in the Philippines | Beware of the spreading virus and know what to do)!” The video bore the same title when opened on YouTube up until Jan. 28, when it was changed to read, “CORONAVIRUS NASA PILIPINAS NANGA BA (Is the Coronavirus already in the Philippines?)”

In a press conference on Jan. 28, the Department of Health (DOH) said there is still no confirmed case of 2019 nCoV in the country. However, there are 27 persons under investigation (PUI) who are closely being monitored for the virus.

Kabisnes’s false and clickbait headline does not reflect its content. In the video’s first 10 seconds, Perez reads the phrase “Coronavirus, nasa Pilipinas na (Corona virus, already in the Philippines)” then proceeds to say that it was a claim circulating on social media, currently being debunked by Malacanang and DOH.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a CNN Philippines interview on Jan. 27 warned the public against propagating “infodemic” or “the virus of miscommunication of false information.” He said: “The virus of miscommunication or false information can be more viral than the virus we are guarding against. This can cause a lot of anxiety and undue fear…Do not absorb all these news just because you find it on social media and then you start propagating it then you become an instrument of the infodemic.”

Kabisnes published the video amid the outbreak of the 2019 nCoV in a few places in China and a handful of cities around the world. A World Health Organization (WHO) information page said a string of pneumonia cases were recorded in December 2019 in Wuhan city in China before researchers discovered in January that a new coronavirus was behind it. It is now called the 2019 nCoV.

The death toll from the outbreak in China has climbed to 106 and the number of cases confirmed has reached 4,515 in China alone, according to reports from the BBC and CNN.

Kabisnes’ misleading video has been viewed over 33,000 times on YouTube and has gotten over 41,000 interactions on Facebook.

YouTube channel Kabisnes was created on July 2, 2019.

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