Claim: The Department of Health (DOH) reports that fake cigarettes that spread coronavirus have reached the Philippines.
The claim was made by the website medsalert.ml, bearing the name and logo of the DOH.
The article said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) raided 3 warehouses in Meycauayan City, Bulacan, seizing fake cigarettes, sacks of raw materials used for cigarette manufacturing, fake Bureau of Internal Revenue tax stamps, shredded plastics, and old cigarette-making machines.
Accompanying the article was a video with the following text: “P500-M Fake Cigarettes Raided by BOC in Bulacan.”
The claim was flagged by Facebook Claim Check, a monitoring tool that detects viral posts with potentially false information. According to social media tool CrowdTangle, the post has acquired 2,877 interactions as of posting.
The facts: The DOH did not issue any advisory on the transmission of the coronavirus through fake cigarettes or that they have reached the Philippines.
Another website containing the false claim was also flagged by Claim Check. The website cnnupdates.ml made the claim with the same text and video, but attributed it to ABS-CBN News instead of DOH. ABS-CBN published no such report, and neither did any other legitimate news sites.
The article with the false claim lifted its text and video from YouTube channel The Young Observer. The original text was taken from a post by the BOC in May 2018 about the raid in Meycauayan City, Bulacan.
That raid was conducted as part of efforts to stop the proliferation of both locally-made fake cigarettes and smuggled fake cigarettes in the country, and was conducted over a year before the coronavirus epidemic.
The first case of local transmission was recorded in the Philippines, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency on Monday, March 9. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines has risen to at least 20 as of posting.
Intensified contact tracing and preparations for “possible sustained community transmission” are being conducted by the government. – Loreben Tuquero/Rappler.com
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