Fake news of a Chinese ship carrying medical waste, docking in a Chennai port spread like wildfire on social media on Thursday. Such was the proliferation of this information on social media that some Tamil newspapers and channels began to report it and the frenzy surrounding it.
The information created panic because China is currently battling the highly infectious Coronavirus. Over 7,700 cases have been recorded worldwide and deaths have reportedly surpassed 200. Several Twitter handles tagged the Chennai Port Trust and demanded to know whether the information they were getting via WhatsApp and other social media platforms were true.
@PortofChennai— Dharmarajan (@iamdharmarajan2) January 30, 2020
TN media is reporting that a Ship carrying medical waste came from China arrived at Chennai Port.
Kindly clarify whether it is true ?
If true then send it back.
This is not a good news at the time of #CoronavirusOutbreak ?#coronavirusindia#coronaviruschina
மருத்துவக் கழிவுகளுடன் சென்னை கடலுக்கு வந்துள்ள சீனக் கப்பலை துறைமுகத்துக்குள் அனுமதிக்கக்கூடாது. மருத்துவக் கழிவுகளை இறக்க அனுமதிப்பது மோசமான விளைவுகளை ஏற்படுத்தி விடும். உடனடியாக சீன மருத்துவக் கழிவு கப்பலை சென்னை கடல் பகுதியில் இருந்து வெளியேற்ற மத்திய அரசு ஆணையிட வேண்டும்!— Dr S RAMADOSS (@drramadoss) January 30, 2020
The Chennai Port Trust was finally forced to issue a statement debunking the information in order to put the rumours to rest.
“With reference to the news item carried by some newspapers/media under the heading 'Medical waste from China brought to Chennai' it is clarified that there is no such information of any ship from China carrying medical waste coming to Chennai port,” authorities clarified in a statement.
They further added that, “As regards to any cargo arriving at Chennai port, customs authorities are permitting the cargo to be released only after proper screening, physical examination and clearance from relevant statutory authorities such as Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI), plant and animal quarantine and drug control. The Pollution Control Board (PCB) officials also inspected the Chennai port and found the news item is false.”
The Chennai port, however, remains on high alert and all ships and crew coming from China are being screened. Much like the city's airport, the port too has quarantine facilities and will be sending any suspected cases to the Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital.
On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry confirmed that a student in Kerala has contracted Coronavirus, making it the country's first case. The Kerala government also confirmed the case.
“One positive case of Novel Coronavirus patient, of a student studying in Wuhan University, has been reported in Kerala. The patient has tested positive for Novel Coronavirus and is in isolation in the hospital. The patient is stable and is being closely monitored,” the government release stated.
The student who was tested positive was one among four students who had been kept in isolation at the Thrissur General Hospital. Six more people are in isolation wards in other hospitals in the state.