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A YouTube channel falsely claimed in at least two of its posts that a “total hard lockdown” is about to be implemented in the country.
On Jan. 13, MJ Journals published a video that bore this headline: “BUONG PILIPINAS, ISASAILALIM MULI SA TOTAL LOCKDOWN (Entire Philippines to be under total lockdown again).”
Five days later, it posted the same video and repeated the claim, but limited the area covered to only the island of Luzon: “BUONG LUZON, ISASAILALIM SA TOTAL HARD LOCKDOWN (Whole Luzon to be under total hard lockdown).”
These posts are false. No announcements have been made by the president nor the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), about implementing a country-wide or Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or total lockdown.
Both 79-second videos used the entirety of a Dec. 29 report by state-run broadcaster People’s Television Network about President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement a day earlier to implement a general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila and seven other cities and provinces for the whole of January.
Apart from the eight areas, the rest of the country was placed under modified GCQ for the same time period.
According to an IATF document amended Jan. 14, an ECQ restricts movement of residents only to accessing essential goods and services, and for frontliners and essential workers to go to work. It also imposes strict business regulations, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel.
Meanwhile, a GCQ allows travel for more offices and industries. More business operations may open and some mass transportation are allowed to operate.
A modified GCQ allows indoor and outdoor non-contact sports activities as well as some mass gatherings so long as wearing of face masks and other health protocols are observed. Businesses and government agencies, except barber shops and restaurants, can operate at full capacity.
Asked whether the national government plans to implement a total lockdown due to the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Jan. 14 briefing that quarantine classifications will not change as these are decided on a monthly basis.
In a Laging Handa briefing the same day, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said a stricter community quarantine is not yet warranted. He explained that the growth of COVID-19 cases and healthcare capacity rates determine the decision to strengthen or loosen area quarantine implementation.
The erroneous claims started appearing after the Philippine Genome Center confirmed on Jan. 13 that the more virulent variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from the United Kingdom has entered the country.
Both MJ Journals’ erroneous videos reached tens of thousands of social media users. Its Jan. 13 video got 225,000 views on YouTube and 4,000 interactions on Facebook (FB), according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
Meanwhile, its Jan. 18 video got 99,000 views on YouTube and 534 FB interactions.
A version of the spurious Jan. 13 video was also embedded in an article by website Kidstva, which got around 3,200 FB interactions and could have reached 31,000 people. Its top three traffic generators are FB pages SuperTekla, News Viral PH, and Thats Showbiz.MJ Journals was created in November 2019, Kidstva in October 2018.