TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A man surnamed Yang (楊) has been accused of spreading false news about Taiwan’s local COVID-19 case count on Wednesday (Sept. 8) morning, causing public panic and affecting the stock market, reported CNA.
The Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office said it traced the source of the rumor to Yang, who had posted messages that read “There are 50 plus new cases today” to a Line group. After searching Yang’s residence, prosecutors ruled out any intention to sabotage the stock market, according to CNA.
However, as Yang had violated the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration by spreading false news, he is subject to a maximum penalty of three years or less in prison or a fine of NT$3 million (US$108,442) or less. After being interrogated, Yang is out on NT$50,000 bail.
In the past week, Taiwan has been on high alert after reports of a local Delta variant cluster, and public anxiety caused the rumor to spread quickly. By 11:30 a.m., the TAIEX index lost more than 200 points despite the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control’s denial of the high case count, according to UDN.
At the routine Center of Epidemic Control Center (CECC) press conference on Wednesday afternoon, CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) confirmed the supposed “more than 50 new cases” was merely a rumor. Deputy head Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) said the Criminal Investigation Bureau had noticed the message being passed around online in the morning and started investigating the source of the fake news, per UDN.
Chen said throughout the pandemic, the CECC has done its best to ensure the transparency of all COVID-related information in order to build public confidence and trust. However, he said such rumors are detrimental not only to the CECC’s authority but also to social and economic stability.