VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Posts showing ‘Italian army’ moving COVID-19 corpses FALSELY use photos from France

Shortly after news broke that an Italian city had to move corpses of COVID-19 patients to different cities via military trucks because local morgues could no longer accommodate them, posts warning Filipinos against the disease surfaced online. But they carried wrong photos of a military convoy.

Six days into the enhanced community quarantine imposed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte on the whole of Luzon on March 16, at least five netizens and two Facebook (FB) pages -- Tweet Post. and Blessed Be Philippines -- published on March 22 a post advising Filipinos to stay at home and pray. The post carried an image of army vehicles driving through a city road.

The seven posts had similar captions claiming it was not an “army parade” but a convoy of 80 trucks carrying bodies of COVID-19 patients in Italy who all died in one day.

The posts are false. The circulating image was taken in France, not Italy, and unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis.

The earliest online copy of the photo could be traced to a March 17 tweet of a netizen, with a caption in French that translates to “The army arrives at Charenton…” She also wrote the hashtag #restecheztoi, which means, “Stay at your house.”

Charenton, short for Charenton-le-Pont, is a commune or municipality in Paris, France.

Specifically, it was taken in the intersection of Rue de Paris and Avenue Anatole France. Google Maps’s Street View of the thoroughfare shows elements visible in the viral image -- the Charenton-le-Pont branch of French pharmacy Pharmacie du marché; the crosswalk; road signs; as well as the information board in front of the pharmacy.

A Google search of Pharmacie du marché branches around the world shows they exist only in France and at a French region called Réunion near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean; none in Italy.

In a March 17 fact check by Agence France-Presse, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said the army trucks spotted at Charenton-le-Pont were unrelated to the health emergency. "The trucks ... belong to a logistical movement unrelated to the coronavirus crisis," it said, as translated from French.

The inaccurate FB posts surfaced three days after several news organizations reported on March 19 that Italy had to transport the bodies of COVID-19 victims in military trucks from Bergamo for burial in other Italian cities and towns since local churches and crematoriums in the city could no longer handle the volume of corpses.

One such photo was indeed used by the netizen who published the false post. However, as cited in the media reports, only 15 trucks -- not 80 -- were used in the transport of the bodies, according to an army spokesman.

To date, Italy has over 74,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases -- second to China, the epicenter of the outbreak, which has more than 81,000 positive cases.

The European nation, however, has surpassed China’s death toll, now at a record 7,500 fatalities, more than double China’s numbers.

The seven inaccurate FB posts have an accumulated total of about 9,300 reactions, more than 600 comments, and almost 40,000 shares.

FB Pages Tweet Post. and Blessed Be Philippines were created on Aug. 7, 2019 and Nov. 23, 2016, respectively.

(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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