Police have questioned a woman who disseminated a video of bats nesting in roofs, as well as the leaders of a fringe political party who said that a COVID-19 outbreak would kill half of Taiwan’s population, as authorities cracked down on people who spread misinformation about the disease.
A 68-year-old woman living in Nantou County has been allegedly identified as the source of two pieces of fabricated news that has been circulating online, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said yesterday.
The video the woman shared showed bats hidden under roof tiles and flying away when disturbed, under which she wrote: “Found: The source of the Wuhan virus. Every house in Wuhan, Hubei [Province], has bats living inside roof tiles. Scary.”
Image grab from Pan Meng-an’s Facebook timeline
The video was originally uploaded to the Internet in July 2011 and shows roof repair work on a bat-infested house in the US, and was titled: “Bat infestation under tile roof — Roofing Miami, Florida,” according to fact-checking Web sites.
The woman had earlier posted a message saying that the clouds coming from China’s Chongqing and Hubei Province carried the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and urged people to seek shelter from the rain, CIB officer Hsu Yi-hsiang (許益祥) said.
Wang Chia-cheng (王家蓁), director of Aerosol Science Research Center at National Chung Shan University, has dismissed the rumor, saying: “The virus is mainly transmitted through human-to-human contact and through droplet infection. Aerosol transmission of the virus would only be possible in closed or semi-closed spaces.”
CIB officials also questioned Chinese Chung Cheng Party Chairman Hsu Hao-cheng (徐浩城), 67, and party secretary-general Lee Mei-hua (李美華) for claiming that the illness was caused by spiritual dysfunction and half of Taiwan’s population would die from it.
The message also claimed that Hsu is a god that “has come to save humanity. He is the savior of the world.”
A post on the party’s Facebook page said that it was useless to wear a mask, wash hands or wear protective clothing to prevent an infection, urging people to instead “listen to Chairman Hsu singing, which can attune a person’s magnetic field.”
The three would face charges of breaching the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) and the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) for spreading misinformation, the CIB said.
Police were also investigating a person who wrote on social media that the Pingtung Sports Stadium in Pingtung City was being transformed into a makeshift hospital to treat COVID-19 patients and that there were at least 700 confirmed cases in southern Taiwan.
“In recent days fake information has been circulating online about the virus situation, which have outrageous and unreasonable content,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) posted on Facebook yesterday. “The use of words suggests they were not written by Taiwanese, so I ask everyone to report them and do not disseminate them any further.”
“We have passed the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), which states that people found guilty of spreading fake news about the virus could face up to three years in prison and a NT$3 million [US$98,739] fine, so do not try to make jokes about it,” Su wrote.
In related news, Taipei police said that a 37-year-old woman, surnamed Wang (王), is facing charges for falsely claiming that a coworker at a hostess bar in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) was confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19.
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