Duque: 'Fake news' spooked funeral parlors, delayed cremation of Chinese nCoV fatality

Duque: 'Fake news' spooked funeral parlors, delayed cremation of Chinese nCoV fatality
A hospital employee dons protective gear inside the holding area for patients suspected of being infected with a deadly SARS-life virus which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, at the Manila Doctors Hospital compound in Manila on January 31, 2020. The Philippines reported its first case of the virus on January 30, a 38-year-old woman who arrived from Wuhan and is no longer showing symptoms.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — “Fake news” on social media spooked funeral parlors and delayed the cremation of the Chinese national who died due to the novel coronavirus, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Duque told DzMM Thursday morning that there were two funeral parlors who initially agreed to cremate the remains of the 44-year-old Chinese man who died due to 2019 nCoV, but later declined due to fear.

“There is no basis other than what they see on their social media [feed]. What they consider is true is what they read on social media,” the Health chief said in Filipino.

The funeral parlors also said that their image and business may be affected, Duque said.

He lamented that the DOH already has difficult jobs, but the spread of misinformation, which is faster, makes it even more difficult.

“We are asking our journalists, reporters to be instruments of evidence-based reports so that if we repeatedly do this, we can at least convince our countrymen to not believe in fake news,” Duque added.

The National Bureau of Investigation is conducting a case build "on the alleged deliberate spread of misinformation and fake news about... and false reporting of the [2019 nCoV]."

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained that his directive aims to avoid “causing undue panic and alarm.”

He added that those “undermining government efforts for a unified and coordinated approach to a common threat that affects us all” are covered by the investigation order.

Cremation in public cemetery

The Health secretary said he ordered to look for a public cemetery that may do the cremation, stressing that the days for cremation has since passed.

He, however, assured that the remains of the Chinese man is in a sealed body bag and should not cause worry of virus spread.

The Chinese man is the Philippines’ first death due to nCoV. He was the companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman, the first confirmed case of nCoV in the country.

On Wednesday, the DOH confirmed the country’s third case of nCoV in a 60-year-old Chinese woman who has since returned to her country.

The Health department is in the process of contacting those who may have come in contact with them.

As of this writing, there are 133 recorded persons under investigation for the virus in the Philippines. Of these, 63 are Filipinos while 54 are Chinese. — Kristine Joy Patag

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