Morocco arrests man for spreading fake coronavirus news

Morocco arrests man for spreading fake coronavirus news
3 min read
07 February, 2020
A Moroccan man in the city of Meknes has been arrested for spreading fake news about the novel coronavirus.
The Moroccan man told people not to travel to the city of Meknes [Getty]
A Moroccan man was arrested in the city of Meknes for distributing fake news that caused alarm about the novel coronavirus, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

The 22-year-old man was arrested by Moroccan police on suspicion of spreading fake news in which he claimed there had been cases of coronavirus in Meknes.

He was arrested after the authorities were alerted to the "fake news" video circulating on social media. 

The video in question shows a person in a medical mask claiming there have been deaths in the city of Meknes due to coronavirus as a result of contact with a Chinese tourist.

The person tells Moroccan citizens not to visit or travel to the city of Meknes.

More than a hundred Moroccans were repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have begun, and quarantined in the Sidi Said hospital in Meknes, Morocco World News reported earlier this week.

The video, which appeared to be filmed in the hospital, spread panic among the local population that those quarantined had perhaps spread the virus. 

An employee at the hospital told news outlet Barlamane this week that all those repatriated are healthy and that the person in the video did not work in the hospital.

A Moroccan woman was arrested on similar charges of spreading fake news in Fez on Monday.

The suspect in question distributed a video in which she claimed that a Chinese restaurant owner in the city was infected with coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Iranian police said on Thursday they arrested one person for allegedly posting a "fake" video online showing the hospitalisation of a patient contaminated by coronavirus.

According to the police, the suspect suggested "that an individual contaminated by coronavirus was hospitalised in Kurdistan" in western Iran.

Initial findings indicated the suspect made the video for "entertainment" purposes, the police said.

The novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in late December, has claimed more than 630 lives, and infected at least 31,000 people in mainland China, with more than 240 cases spreading to two dozen countries.

There have been very few confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East. 

Read also: Arab countries are preparing for a possible coronavirus outbreak

The United Arab Emirates confirmed the 
first and only case of the deadly coronavirus in the Middle East in January, saying that doctors were treating a family-of-four that had come from a Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Beijing has taken extraordinary steps to halt the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The pathogen is believed to have emerged in a market that sold wild game, and spread by a Lunar New Year holiday season in which hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically or abroad.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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