Spreading fake MERS rumours could lead to $21,700 fine

Spreading fake MERS rumours could lead to $21,700 fine
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI - Citizens should be careful not to raise false alarms regarding MERS infections in the nation, the New Taipei City Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday, as anyone doing so may face a maximum fine of NT$500,000 (S$21,700).

Concern has been growing as MERS continues to claim lives in South Korea, accumulating 23 deaths so far this year. DOH officials said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will immediately announce any possible infection case on its official website. Citizens were warned not to spread rumours, especially on the Internet.

A 35-year-old man surnamed Yeh, posted on his Facebook on Monday that two middle-aged women with MERS symptoms had fainted on a flight from Taipei to South Korea. Yeh claimed that the women were later confirmed to be infected with the MERS virus after arriving in South Korea. The message was then shared quickly, officials said.

Yeh also listed several places that he claimed the women had visited during their stay in Taiwan, including Suao, Taipei 101, nightclubs in Taipei, and Tonghua night market.

Later that day the FDA discredited the rumour. The New Taipei City Police Department (NTPC) collaborated with DOH officials, bringing in Yeh for interrogations. Yeh admitted that his post based on vague stories from friends, and that he regrets posting the unfounded statements.

According to the Communicable Disease Control Act, those spreading rumours regarding contagious diseases can face fines ranging from NT$90,000 to NT$500,000, DOH officials said. Yeh will be the first to face a fine due to spreading false information of infectious diseases.

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