Fake news around the coronavirus pandemic has refused to die down. Once again this week, a lot of misinformation related to COVID-19 took the internet by a storm.

From fake messages attributed to government and other organisations to communal hatred, here’s a quick round-up of the WhatsApp forwards and fake tweets that misled the public this week:

1. Action Against WhatsApp Admins Over COVID-19 Jokes? Hoax Alert!
A viral message on social media requests WhatsApp group administrators to close the groups for two days amid the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown. The message goes on to say that the groups should be closed because police can take action against the admin and group members “vide section 68, 140 and 188 if someone posts a joke about the virus.”

However, we found out that there is no truth to this claim. The message, which asks the WhatsApp admins to close their groups for two days, says that police can take action under Section 68, 140 and 188. With respect to the latter part of the message, which mentions the Disaster Management Act, it may be assumed that the sections being referred here are part of this Act.

However, on checking the Act, we found that while there is a Section 68, it does not mention anything about spreading fake news or making jokes etc about coronavirus. Section 68 simply talks about authentication of orders or decisions.

2. Hoax: No, a COVID-19 Doctor Wasn’t Killed by an ‘Islamist’ Mob
A viral message claims that Dr Vandana Tiwari, who was involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients, was attacked by “Islamist Jihadis” in Uttar Pradesh last week following which she succumbed to her injuries.

The Quint can confirm that the claim with which the message is being circulated is false. Vandana Tiwari, a pharmacist and the caretaker of the Girls Hostel at the Shivpuri Medical College, died after she suffered brain haemorrhage and not because of an attack by “Islamist Jihadis”.

We got in touch with Dr Abhishek Chauhan, who was handling Tiwari’s case at the Birla Hospital in Gwalior. He informed us that she was admitted to the hospital in an unconscious state on 1 April.

“She died of brain haemorrhage. We also tested her blood sample for COVID-19, which turned out to be negative,” he said. We also accessed a copy of the report filed by Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO), Shivpuri which corroborated the details.

3. Old Video From Pakistan Shared to Claim Tablighi Man Roaming Naked
A video of a naked man in a mosque is going viral on social media with the claim that it shows a Tablighi Jamaat member roaming around naked.

“तब्लीगी जमात का मुल्ला देखो नग्न होकर क्या कर रहा है ,” one such post says. (Translation: See what a Muslim from Tablighi Jamaat is doing naked.”

However, we found out that the video was old and not even from India. We were able to find a longer version of the video on YouTube through which we could establish the location. Once we knew the location we looked for reports to see what the incident was about.

Many pages on Facebook suggested that it showed a mentally challenged man entering a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan. While we were successful in establishing the location, we couldn’t independently verify the incident.

But the fact that it was available online long before the outbreak of coronavirus and that it wasn’t from India, makes it evident that the incident has nothing to with the current situation.

4. No, a US Prof Wasn’t Arrested for ‘Selling’ Coronavirus to China
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in China’s Wuhan, there have been multiple conspiracy theories about how the virus has been created in a lab. Now a forward, accompanied by a video, is being shared on social media to prove that the theory was right.

The message is being shared with a bulletin of WCVB-TV, which is an ABC-affiliated television station. The Quint received multiple queries to verify this message on its helpline number.

Well, the bulletin is being used out of context to push the conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was developed in a lab in Wuhan. The Quint had earlier debunked that to show how there is no scientific evidence that proves that the new virus is a bioweapon.

Secondly, professor Charles Lieber, whose name is mentioned in the viral message, has indeed been arrested but not because he ‘manufactured and sold’ coronavirus to China but because he lied to the US authorities about his involvement with the Chinese government program to recruit scientific talent.

According to the statement available on the website of Department of Justice, Lieber, who was the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, became a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in 2011 and was a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which is aimed at recruiting and cultivating high-level scientific talent.

5. BJP MP Falsely Claims COVID-Infected Tablighis Misbehaved in Wards
Karnataka BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje on Monday, 6 April, took to Twitter to claim that eight out of 70 Tablighis from Belagavi who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event at Delhi’s Nizamuddin had tested positive for coronavirus. Adding that the results of the rest were yet to come, she also claimed that the Tablighis in quarantine wards were misbehaving and spitting everywhere.

But the claim by Karandlaje is false and builds upon multiple reports, some even disputed, that members of the Tablighi Jamaat who have been quarantined have been misbehaving with hospital staff. In fact, in this case, the hospital has also issued a clarification about the claim.

Courtesy THE QUINT