2 Cases of Coronavirus Confirmed in Kolkata? No, Media Misreported
Amid the mass hysteria over the outbreak of novel coronavirus, news broke on Thursday, 13 February, that two people in Kolkata, both passengers who arrived from Bangkok at the city's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, had tested positive for the virus.
Many media outlets carried the news, while also giving the names of the passengers, stating that these two men had been sent to Beleghata ID And BG Hospital.
News agency PTI was among the first to report on these two alleged cases of coronavirus in Kolkata. Subsequently, other media outlets either published their own reports or picked up the PTI copy.
Journalist Faye D'Souza also uploaded a post about the same news on her verified Instagram profile, where she spoke about two cases having been confirmed in Kolkata, but did not name the people allegedly diagnosed.
Her post had over 10,000 likes and 123 comments.
The Quint also carried an update about the case in its dedicated coronavirus live blog on Thursday, 13 February, but issued a correction immediately after it became evident that PTI had misreported.
TRUE OR FALSE?
PTI and The Indian Express actually misreported the incident, stating that these people had tested positive for this virus, when they were actually suspected cases and had been referred to undergo tests.
It is worth noting that PTI and The Indian Express were among those who misreported, but corrected themselves later and updated their stories. However, PTI's original story is still available online, as can be seen in the first screenshot.
Moreover, not everyone updated their stories, as is evident in our screenshots. Some outlets which carried the original PTI did not refresh or update their stories, resulting in the circulation of misinformation.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Quint checked the Kolkata Aiport's Twitter handle and found that they had tweeted an update regarding the two alleged cases, and had termed the news false and baseless. The tweet also said that three passengers had been referred to a hospital.
According to a statement by the airport, the passengers had been referred to the hospital by the Health Office.
The Health and Family Welfare Department also issued a statement about the reports of positive cases, saying that no one in West Bengal had tested positive till date and that the news carried by some portals, which quoted the director of the airport, was factually incorrect.
Himadri Barman – one of the two men who had been named by media outlets – a post-doctoral researcher in China, reached out to The Quint to clarify he had not tested positive for the virus.
Speaking to The Quint, Barman also clarified that the airport had not sent him to undergo the tests and that he himself had volunteered to get them done as he had a cough.
According to him, he had been cleared during the screening at the Kolkata Airport on Tuesday, but told authorities that he should nonetheless be tested. From there, he was taken to the Beleghata ID hospital, where the requisite tests were done.
"My test results came on Thursday morning and I was allowed to leave," Barman said, having received clearance from the hospital. However, he said that he was shocked to find that media reports on Thursday afternoon had carried news of him having tested positive, even leading him to doubt his own test results.
"It was even circulated in WhatsApp groups," he said, ruing the fact that his identity had been revealed by the airport authorities.
Barman also told The Quint that one of his main concerns was that PTI had quoted an airport official, who told him that they had never given any such information to the news agency.
Additionally, Barman also said that even now, news outlets were spreading fake news, because their articles said that he had been quarantined, whereas he had been allowed to leave by the hospital after the tests came out negative.
"I was never quarantined by either the airport authority or the Beleghata ID Hospital," Barman stressed.
Later, Barman also reiterated the same in a Facebook post, and provided photos of his test results, which appeared to confirm his statement.
Clearly, the news is fake, and was a case of media misreporting.
(Editor's Note: This copy has been updated with quotes from Himadri Barman after The Quint spoke to him.)
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