Did a family of three -- who reportedly died within days of each other before testing positive for the novel coronavirus -- actually exist? No, that's not true: This fictional story featuring the made-up family was presented to audiences in at least nine different cities around the world as if it had happened in their town. The stories are all fakes.
GEORGETOWN - The death of a family of three in Georgetown has been announced by the Georgetown Public Hospital.
A technician at the Guyana Power & Light Inc., whose name was given as Timothy 'mysteriously' died along with his wife and son within three days. The hospital has said in a statement that none of the three showed symptoms of coronavirus but tests conducted after their demise proved positive for the deadly virus.
Friends and health officials who came in contact with the family have been quarantined and been tested for coronavirus. According to the statement, 28 people have been quarantined at a special ward at the hospital.
Dr. Ahmed, who treated Timothy said he only got to know he had a travel history to South Korea after his death.
The Ministry of Public Health in Guyana issued a statement on March 8, 2020, stating that this story was false.
Throughout March, this website -- n5ti.com -- released a steady flow of false local stories and placed them in Facebook groups in those regions. The spammer employed a trick that Lead Stories has seen many times before from this network, which also includes the websites AB-TC.COM, CBTVN.COM, and MCMNT.COM.
Put simply, the network turns the commenting off on posts, making it difficult or impossible for people exposed to the fake news in Facebook groups to have an opportunity to discuss the story within the group -- or to warn others before they are tricked into clicking on the link.
Alternate editions of this story feature photos of actual city hospitals named in the fictional stories, lending credibility to the posts for local readers who may recognize the building. The story was presented to different audiences in different languages -- English, Spanish, French and Portugese.
The first story (archived here) appeared on Facebook March 4, 2020, and was set in Trinidad and Tobago. It was titled, "Port of Spain family of three die before testing positive for coronavirus." The father of the family, "Timothy," was said to be a teacher, and the family supposedly died at Port of Spain General Hospital.
On March 6, the next story (archived here) came out in Nelspruit, the capital city of Mpumalanga province in South Africa. It was titled, "Mpumalanga family of three die before testing positive for coronavirus." This time, "Timothy" was a a technician at ESKOM, a South African public electricity ultility. The family, claimed the story, died at Rob Ferreira Hospital.
On March 8, the stories came from Georgetown, Guyana (archived here), and Bogota, Columbia (archived here) .The story in Spanish, targeting the people of Bogota, was titled, "Familia de tres bogotanos muere antes de dar positivo por coronavirus." The article included a faked death announcement from The Ministry of Health and Social Protection (El Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social).
For the remainder of the stories, it appears that the fake news sites stuck with teacher as the fictional occupation of "Timothy."
March 9 brought a story (archived here) in Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius. There, "Timothy's" fictional family died in the largest hospital on the island, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam National Hospital. The story was titled, "Port Louis family of three die before testing positive for coronavirus."
On March 12, n5ti.com put out a story in French (archived here), titled, "Abidjan: une famille de trois personnes décède avant d'être testée positive pour un coronavirus." This time, the fictional story had a faked announcement of the family's passing delivered by the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Treichville, a suburban town outside the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan.
By March 13, the story (archived here) had moved to Santiago, Chile. Presented in Spanish, it was titled, "Familia de tres de Santiago muere antes de dar positivo por coronavirus," and the faked hospital announcement came from El Hospital Clínico Universidad.
On March 15, the story (archived here) was in Portuguese and was titled "Família de três de Brasília morre antes de apresentar resultado positivo para coronavírus." This time, "Timothy's" family allegedly died at Hospital de Base do Distrito Federal.
March 24 was, it appears, the last time this fictional family of three met its demise. The story (archived here) was set at The Archbishop Loayza National Hospital in Lima, Peru This story was delivered in Spanish and was titled, "Familia de tres miembros de Lima muere antes de dar positivo por coronavirus."
Here are links to the nine stories for quick reference:
Abidjan (archived copy)
Bogota (archived copy)
Brasilia (archived copy)
Georgetown (archived copy)
Lima (archived copy)
Mpumalanga (archived copy)
Port Louis (archived copy)
Port of Spain (archived copy)
Santiago (archived copy)
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