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Spreading fake news about Wuhan pneumonia could incur hefty fines: Taiwan CDC

Individuals spreading misinformation about outbreak of Wuhan virus will be punished with fine of up to NT$3 million

Hospital staff wash the emergency entrance of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center.

Hospital staff wash the emergency entrance of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwanese public is warned against spreading rumors about the pneumonia outbreak from China, and violators could face a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$99,976).

Audio recordings circulating on social media allege that “Cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been admitted to specific hospitals in Taiwan, and emergency measures have been implemented accordingly.”

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a statement on Wednesday (Jan. 22) dismissing the message as disinformation and cautioned against its further dissemination. The measures mentioned in the recordings, including triage procedures and facial mask requirements, are common practice for infection control in scenarios such as treating patients with a fever, it said.

Any patient suspected of or confirmed as having contracted the new virus (2019-nCoV) will be treated in an isolated ward and kept from other patients or visitors to the hospital, the CDC said regarding the country’s response to public health events like the Chinese outbreak.

The public is urged to exercise caution and investigate the veracity of disease-related information emerging online. Individuals spreading misinformation will be subject to a hefty fine of up to NT$3 million, in accordance with the Communicable Disease Control Act, or punished by detention for up to three days or a fine of NT$30,000, as stipulated by the Social Order Maintenance Act.

As of Wednesday (Jan. 22), China has reported 570 cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia, including 7 fatalities, in 25 jurisdictions, according to national broadcaster China Network Television. Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and the U.S. have also confirmed cases of the virus.