The number of COVID-19 patients identified by the Divulapitiya-Minuwangoda cluster in Gampaha district has now crossed over 1400 mark. Various social media reports have emerged on the prevailing situation in the country. One of the key talking points has been the whereabouts of Minuwangoda garment factory workers and their close associates.
In this context, we found news posts in Sinhala and Tamil social media streams claiming 119 COVID-19 positive personnel were missing in Gampaha. However, our investigation revealed these reports were false and misleading
A Facebook Page called Thulirthe along with a few others had shared a similar news report with the caption “மக்களே அவதானம்! கொரோனா தொற்றுக்குள்ளான 119 பேர் தலைமறைவு ” directly translated to English as “Attention! Corona infected 119 people are missing”. Below is a screengrab of that particular Facebook post
Similar news reports have been shared in Sinhala language as well, claiming 119 Covid-19 infected persons were in hiding and search operations were underway to find these persons. Most of these posts and had quoted the secretary of the Gampaha District Secretariat, Mr. Sunil Gamlath as the source.
Replying to these claims Police media spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana had stated that the news claims related to missing 119 COVID-19 patients is false.
He went on to say that, all personnel associated garment factory which became the new COVID-19 cluster, have now been identified and subjected to PCR testing. DIG Ajith Rohana added that, those tested positive with the COVID-19 have been directed to treatment centers and others have been isolated and sent to quarantine centers.
He further requested that anyone who had been in contact with such isolated personnel should immediately get in touch with the relevant officials and provide information.
In this way, the news off 119 COVID-19 infected persons gone missing was refuted by the DIG Ajith Rohana. Below is the press briefing related to this statement
Since most of the reports had quoted a statement from the secretary of the Gampaha district secretariat we contacted him to get more insights on the claims. He explained that his statement had been presented out of context in social media reports. Referring to his statement, released via Government Information Department, Mr. Jayalath clarified that he had mentioned that it was only a special search carried out to identify these 119 personnel. He added that this situation arose since there were some discrepancies in contact numbers and addresses provided by them but at no point he had mentioned these personnel were missing or they were COVID-19 positive patients.
Below is an excerpt from the Secretary of Gampaha district secretariat.
He further reiterated that he had only mentioned about giving special attention to trace the individuals and nothing related to missing personnel and media should be more responsible in reporting such matters, so that it would not create further panic among public.
Mr. Jayalath further added later all these personnel were traced with the help of police and other officials and even now special attention is given to certain areas in Gampaha district in an effort to minimize the further spread of COVID-19.
From our investigation, it was clear that reports stating, “119 COVID-19 personnel are missing” with related to the Gampaha cluster is false. Police media spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana refuted the claims and the Secretary of Gampaha District Secretary clarified that media had misinterpreted his statement thus creating these misleading claims.
Title:Coronavirus infected 119 people have not gone missing in GampahaFact Check By: Nelson Mani