Sri Lankan undergrad student’s photo shared with False narrative linking him to Corona Virus

Coronavirus False Social

A Chinese female tourist was detected as the first Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) affected person in Sri Lankan on January 27 while she was about to leave the country from the Bandaranaike International Airport. After being admitted to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) she had recovered completely, as quoted by the Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe.

Social media was abuzz with number of posts highlighting the areas she had visited including Negombo, Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Galle and Ahungalla and requesting public, who had come in contact with her, to be vigilant. Another group who had travelled with her had tested negative for coronavirus and already left Sri Lanka.

Amid all this, a few Facebook posts were shared with the following statement “මෙහි සිටින චීන ජාතිකයා පසුගිය දිනවල ලංකාවේ හිමිවූ ප්‍රථම කොරෝනා කාන්තාව සමඟ පැමිණ පසුව පරීක්ෂණ සඳහා පෙනී නොසිට පලා ගොස් දැනට දෙල්ගොඩ ප්‍රදේශයේ සැඟව සිටින බව වාර්තා වේ.” translated to English as “The person in this photo came with the Chinese lady who was tested positive for coronavirus, fled away avoiding medical tests and is reportedly hiding in Delgoda area”. Below is the screenshot of the above said Facebook post.

all this, a few Facebook posts were shared with the following statement “මෙහි සිටින චීන ජාතිකයා පසුගිය දිනවල ලංකාවේ හිමිවූ ප්‍රථම කොරෝනා කාන්තාව සමඟ පැමිණ පසුව පරීක්ෂණ සඳහා පෙනී නොසිට පලා ගොස් දැනට දෙල්ගොඩ ප්‍රදේශයේ සැඟව සිටින බව වාර්තා වේ.” translated to English as “The person in this photo came with the Chinese lady who was tested positive for coronavirus, fled away avoiding medical tests and is reportedly hiding in Delgoda area”. Below is the screenshot of the above said Facebook post.

FB LinkArchived Link
C:\Users\Prabuddha Athukorala\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\1.png

This is another post of being shared in similar context.

Facebook LinkArchived Link

Fact Check 

To get an official statement on this incident, we checked the Health Ministry Epidemiology Unit daily updates related to coronavirus and the status reports issued by the Health Promotion Bureau as below. We did not find any news related to a Chinese national fleeing without a medical test.

Health Promotion Bureau StatusHealth Ministry Situation Report

To verify whether such a story was published on any of the mainstream media, we did a google search and google news search. Both searches did not yield any news related to a Chinese national fleeing without undertaking medical tests.

Google Search Link

Factcrescendo – Sri Lanka was able to contact the person believed to be in the photo through one of our followers who claimed he knows the person victimized in this post.  In conversation with the person believed to be in the photo (Tharin Gunawardhana), we learnt that he is an undergraduate IT student at the University of Moratuwa. He also confirmed that he had not been out of Colombo during the period (January 19th to 27th) in which the infected Chinese lady was touring various parts of Sri Lanka.

He further mentioned that the news was false and one of his friends initially shared it as a joke due to his resemblance to a Chinese national, which grabbed the attention of certain Facebook page admins, and they misused these images and some had already taken down after reporting such content.

We checked the victims Facebook profile and found that images circulating on social media were indeed taken from his own profile from 2016 and 2017 as shown below.

Photo LinkArchived Link

IDH also confirmed to us that such an incident of a Chinese national travelling with the coronavirus detected person, fleeing without confirming to investigations is totally false and even her husband has tested negative for Coronavirus.

It is clear that images circulating on Facebook, claimed to be of a Chinese a national is actually a Sri Lankan national named Tharin Gunawardhana.

Conclusion 

From our investigations it is clear that the social media posts claiming that “A Chinese national travelling with the Coronavirus affected Chinese female in Sri Lanka had avoided medical tests and is hiding in Delgoda area” are totally baseless and the photos shared on social media are of a Sri Lankan undergrad student at University of Moratuwa, Tharin Gunawardhana.

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Title:Sri Lankan undergrad student’s photo shared with False narrative linking him to Corona Virus.

Fact Check By: Sathyajith Shubasinghe 

Result: False

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