Spreading faster than the Coronavirus, COVID-19, is misinformation and fake news. Some of it starts as a misunderstanding of official announcements, some is an expression of people’s fears and some is just plain maliciousness. In this briefing we will cover and debunk some of the fake news we’ve seen spreading.

Getting Accurate Information

It is important in a crisis to reply on information that comes from a source of authority. For accurate information on Coronavirus see:

Shopping tours

Social media posts claimed there were bus loads of people from the city travelling to country areas and stripping the shops of basic items. Some alleged it is Asian and specifically Chinese Australians buying things to ship overseas. This claim was given a boost when it was repeated in The Daily Mail, The Age and on Radio 2GB. On 2GB the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, stated an investigation was under way and suggested it was a criminal enterprise.

Joint investigation by Guardian Australia, the ABC and regional journalists found no evidence to support the claims. They contacted local store managers and spoke with locals. The one claimed picture of a bus outside a supermarket was traced back to a tour company who had been travelling in the regional area for a week and were quite entitled to stop at the shops for supplies.

The truth is there have been shortages in supermarkets around the country and many of the shelves have been empty. This is now starting to turn around for many goods in many places. The accusation against people from the cities, and against people of Asian or specifically Chinese appearance in particular, is an effort at scapegoating. It gives an easy to understand, if entirely false, explanation as well as someone to blame. Rumours like this need to be halted in their tracks with the facts.

It is important that members of the Government, and MPs and community leaders more broadly, as well as the mainstream media, double check their facts before jumping on a bandwagon in crisis. Misinformation only fuels panic and hate and increases the number of problems we need to tackle during this time of crisis.

Fake Emergency Notice

The following message was circulated on social media:

Australian EMERGENCY Notice;

If you feel unwell, have a fever or sore throat. PLEASE do not go to the medical centre/family clinic or the hospital, please contact the communicable disease control branch directly. There will be a doctor who will visit your place of residence and do a check up on you, it will be free of charge. Do the right thing!

Contact Numbers by State

<Redacted>

(Copy paste share) #spreadtheword

Emergency messages ARE NOT spread by asking random people to pass along the message. A real emergency message will be online at a government address where it can be shared and people can check its authenticity.

In this case the message is in fact a danger to public health. The phone numbers that were listed are for doctors and pathologists to use to report CONFIRMED cases to help manage the crisis. AFP Fact Check looked into the claims. NSW Health directly addressed them stating the message did not originate with them and “Public Health Units are now being inundated with unnecessary phone calls”.