• Jamie Dent

Here’s What We Learned From Yesterday's Falsely Rumoured 70+ Cases 🦠 🤔

What Happened Yesterday? 👀

Yesterday saw the biggest moment of mismatched information since the beginning of the pandemic in Malta. A few 'early leak' sources reported that a record-breaking 70+ people tested positive for COVID, when in actual fact it was later confirmed that there were 49 new positive cases.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that the mix up was due to 22 migrants who were re-tested to confirm their condition after it was already known that they had contracted COVID-19 some time ago.

Leaks, Sources, And Influence 📰

Early leaks are always going to be a slippery slope, no matter who reports them. It’s not a bad idea to follow a COVID early leak page, but it’s still important to think critically when reading these leaks.

One such page is the "Gerald Fenech Covid19 news updates" Facebook page, which has gained a staggering 35,000+ likes through daily Coronavirus updates. Pretty impressive considering the page was created just a few months back on the 22nd of May.

This level of attention was gained thanks to his consistently accurate early leaks on the local COVID-19 situation, ranging from updates on travel bans, daily cases, cluster details etc.

Unfortunately, Gerald has had a few cases of false reporting. Of course, this wasn't done intentionally - but the fact remains that incorrect information was posted for thousands of people to read. Almost a month ago, he wrongly reported 2 new cases when there were actually 0, and a week after that he reported 4 cases when there were actually 0 again.

Yesterday morning, he was the first major source to leak the fake news of 70+ cases.

Naturally, mass panic ensued as tens of thousands of locals were under the impression that we've hit a record-breaking day for COVID-19 daily cases.

Some Takeaways 👇

1. It’s best to place most of your trust in official sources such as the Health Ministry’s Facebook page or at least in sources that post the news after the official 12:30pm update. Of course, even in this case, it is still important to think critically.

2. Early leak sources are almost never publicly known - some clarity from journalists' end on who is providing them with this early information would certainly help improve credibility.

3. Those posting early COVID leaks, like Gerald Fenech, must understand that they’re in a position of responsibility. Having tens of thousands of anxious locals following you is not something which should be taken lightly. Word goes round quick - factual reporting is crucial.

It's important to mention that we at FreeHour uploaded a post about the potential record-breaking day for COVID cases in Malta, however we made sure to stress that it was just a rumour circulating. Our intention was never to present it as fact, but rather to show our audience what journalists & doctors were saying in the hours leading to the official update.

4. Malta’s Health Ministry appeals for responsibility in these times, asking to avoid speculation over case numbers, & advising against sharing 'fake news' that may alarm people for no reason.

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