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Hospitals unsettled by rumors on new coronavirus
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2020.01.31 16:08
  • Updated 2020.01.31 17:41
  • comments 0

Hospitals in Seoul and Daejeon, about 200 km south of the capital, have become sources of fake news that painted them as the hotbed of the new coronavirus.

Korean online users spread rumors that a confirmed new coronavirus patient was reported at particular hospitals. People rushed to call the hospitals if the information was true and some patients even avoided visiting the hospitals mentioned. A hospital in Daejeon asked the police to investigate online rumors that the institution had a visit from a patient infected with the virus.

The Catholic University of Korea Daejeon St. Mary's Hospital on Friday requested the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency’s Cyber Investigation Team to investigate the fake news.

For example, a baseless rumor said, “A confirmed patient infected with Wuhan pneumonia was reported at Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital and people should avoid going there,” and another said that “A new coronavirus patient was reported in Daejeon, and the patient has been transferred to Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital and the triage room was shut down.”

Such groundless rumors went viral on social media, reached Daejeon citizens, and prompted them to call Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital for inquiries.

“Fake news makes patients and citizens anxious and confused when they visit our hospital,” Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital said. “We requested the Daejeon police agency’s cyber investigation team to find the writer and distributors of the fake news reports for their illegal acts creating social anxiety and confusion.” Daejeon is a metropolis adjacent to the temporary shelters for Koreans evacuated from the epicenter Wuhan.

“I’ve been clarifying that these rumors were not true for several days. At first, I took it lightly but the rumors snowballed and we had to deal with so many inquiries,” an official at Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital said. “As hospital staff and inpatients became increasingly concerned and the rumors kept spreading, we decided to request a police investigation.”

The hospital restricted all patient visits and established a triage room, checking each visitor for fever and overseas travel records and asking them to put on face masks and sanitize their hands.

Because of fake news on the moving routes of the third confirmed patient, unrelated plastic surgery clinics and restaurants in southern Seoul suffered damages. The fake news said the third confirmed patient visited Grand Plastic Surgery Clinic.

In response, the Gangnam District Office requested a police investigation.

Jeong Sun-gyun, head of Gangnam District Office, held a briefing on Thursday. “Fake news said the third confirmed patient’s travel route, including an eatery and a cosmetics shop in Gangnam, as well as several other stores.”


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