Pofma correction orders issued over false claims on Covid-19 XBB variant
HardwareZone Forum, Thailand Medical News website and opposition politician Goh Meng Seng have been ordered under the fake news law to put up corrections over false and misleading statements about the Covid-19 XBB subvariant.
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office issued a correction direction to the Facebook page Goh Meng Seng People's Power Party as well, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday.
Thailand Medical News had on Oct 9 uploaded the article titled "BREAKING! Singapore Is Under Attack By The New SARS-CoV-2 XBB Recombinant Variant With COVID-19 Infections And Hospitalizations Rising. Thailand Could Be Next!" on its website an Facebook and Twitter accounts.
On Oct 10, the article was shared on Facebook pages belonging to Mr Goh and on a HardwareZone forum thread.
The correction directions require recipients to insert a notice against the original post or article, with a link to the Government's clarification.
MOH noted that the article had claimed that severe Covid-19 cases are becoming more common, even in the fully vaccinated. It also claimed that mortuaries, funeral parlours, and crematoria are facing a 'pile up' in cases.
These claims are false, MOH said, adding that there has been no evidence of the XBB strain causing more severe illness than previous variants.
In fact, local data in the last two weeks shows that XBB cases are estimated to have a 30 per cent lower risk of hospitalisation compared to Omicron BA.5 variant cases, the ministry said.
The number of Covid-19 deaths over the past month has not increased as well, it added.
Although Thailand Medical News has since amended the article, the article as first published had misrepresented the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and had been circulating in private messaging chats and other social media channels, MOH said.
This could cause undue public concern, it added.
MOH had on Tuesday refuted rumours circulating on messaging WhatsApp that Singapore is seeing a rapid increase in severe Covid-19 cases and deaths due to the circulating XBB strain of the Omicron variant, and said it would take action under Pofma.