COVID-19 Watch FACT CHECK Health

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Story on DOH monitoring people who came in contact with Cebu child ‘with nCoV’ MISLEADING

A Jan. 22 story by website The Most Popular Lists ( falsely claimed in its headline that the Department of Health (DOH) was monitoring 12 people who had contact with a “novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) patient” in Cebu City.

Still making the rounds on social media three weeks after it first appeared, the story is misleading. There have only been three confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the country, a 38-year-old Chinese woman who has since recovered, her 44-year-old male companion who died while at the hospital, and a 60-year-old woman who has flown back to China after recovering and testing negative for the virus.

The Most Popular Lists’ inaccurate report lifted word-for-word a Jan. 21 article by CNN Philippines about a five-year-old tourist from Wuhan City in Hubei province, the center of the outbreak. That day, DOH announced that the child tested positive for an unidentified strain of coronavirus. He was placed under investigation, along with at least 12 other people he came in contact with, during his trip to Central Visayas.

Instead of carrying CNN Philippines’ headline, “DOH monitoring boy from China who tested positive for unidentified coronavirus,” the website changed it to falsely read: “DOH monitoring at least 12 people who had contact with Wuhan Coronavirus-positive boy in Cebu City.”

The 2019-nCoV is a newly discovered strain of coronavirus that has infected over 64,000 and has killed more than 1,300 globally, as of Feb. 14. Coronavirus is a family of viruses which include the virus behind some cases of the common cold as well as the more deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

At the time The Most Popular Lists’ misleading report was published, the DOH only said the boy came out positive in a test for “non-specific” coronavirus. He has since been cleared of being in the danger zone for 2019-nCoV, testing negative for the virus, the DOH said in a Jan. 24 press release.

There are 191 persons under investigation around the country at the moment being monitored for possible infection of 2019-nCoV, according to DOH’s case tracker.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the virus as a global health emergency. On Feb. 11, WHO announced the official name of the disease brought about by contracting the virus as COVID-19.

“We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people,” the WHO said.

The misleading report could have reached over 450,000 social media users, with the traffic largely coming from Facebook pages Thinking Minds, Duterte Speaks Now and Duterte – Bisaya PRIDE.

The Most Popular Lists was created on Aug. 27, 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.)