Did Belgium Health Minister Maggie De Block put a ban on sexual activity between three or more people to arrest the growth of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus? No, that's not true: Belgium has lost 88 people to the virus as of March 23, 2020, but this claim is clear satire and comes from a web page that frequently publishes satirical stories.
The claim originated from an article published by World News Daily Report on March 20, 2020, titled "Belgium Health Minister puts ban on non-essential sexual activities of persons 3 or greater in indoor areas" (archived here) which opened:
Belgium Health Minister Maggie de Block has put a ban on all non-essential sexual activities of persons 3 or greater in indoor areas. Health Minister de Block announced today that, effective immediately, "non-essential" sexual activities of 3 people or more are banned in Belgium to combat the spread of COVID-19.
De Block said she was forced to act swiftly because of Belgium's reputation as being the "beer-drinking" and "group sex capital of Europe."
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Belgium Health Minister puts ban on non-essential sexual activities of persons 3 or greater in indoor areas
Belgium Health Minister Maggie de Block has put a ban on all non-essential sexual activities of persons 3 or greater in indoor areas. Health Minister de Block announced today that, effective immediately, "non-essential" sexual activities of 3 people or more are banned in Belgium to combat the spread the COVID 19.
Maggie De Block is, in fact, Belgium's health minister, who recently announced Belgium will be on lockdown due to coronavirus for another eight weeks at the least. As of March 23, Belgium had more than 3,700 coronvirus patients, and it recorded 88 deaths, according to worldometers.info.
As far as the country's standing among beer-drinking nations, Belgium does rank highly in its alcohol consumption, but less than other European countries, according to international data. Belgians have also said that, while beer and alcohol are pretty available in shops, drunkenness isn't totally welcome in social culture.
Sex work is also legal in Belgium, with its own set of regulations, but De Block said nothing pertaining to peoples' sexual habits.
The website World News Daily Report is a humor website specialized in posting hoaxes and made up stories. The site has a visible and clear notice clarifying that its articles are not real news stories.
The disclaimer on their website is pretty clear about that, even though you have to scroll all the way down the page to find it:
World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.
On March 20, 2019, the site added a new header that included the slogan "Where facts don't matter" to make it clearer to casual visitors the published content is fictional:
The site often uses images stolen without attribution from real news websites, sometimes showing real people who have nothing to do with the story, such as here:
It is run by Janick Murray-Hall and Olivier Legault, who also run the satirical Journal de Mourréal, a satirical site spoofing the (real) Journal de Montéal. Very often, their stories feature an image showing a random mugshot found in a mugshot gallery on the internet or on a stock photo website superimposed over a background of flashing police lights or crime scene tape.
Articles from the site are frequently copied (sometimes even months or years later) by varous fake news websites that omit the satire disclaimer and present the information as real.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes worldnewsdailyreport.com as:
A website that publishes hoaxes and made-up stories that are often widely shared and mistaken for news.
According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.
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