Chinese state media and a government official spread a false image they claimed showed a newly constructed hospital building in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The image actually shows a modular apartment building more than 600 miles away in Qingdao, China, and was taken from an online listing.
The out-of-context photo was shared in tweets from the verified accounts of Global Times and People's Daily, both of which are state media outlets, and was tweeted by Lijian Zhao, deputy director general of the information department in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Global Times also published an article, archived using Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, featuring the photo.
The false image was spread after videos showing the rapid construction of a new hospital in Wuhan went viral across social media networks. Bloomberg reported that China was planning to build a hospital in a week in the coronavirus-stricken city. The hospital would reportedly have 1,500 beds.
The tweets by Global Times and Zhao claimed to be the first look at the first building of Huoshenshan Hospital. The Global Times article featuring the false image attributed the photo to Chinese social media platform Weibo. Zhao has spread disinformation in the past and is known for his anti-US trolling.
Coronavirus disinformation has spread online since news of the virus broke. Much of it includes baseless conspiracy theories, unverified video, and false numbers of confirmed infections.
Health officials have confirmed five cases across the US so far, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. China has reported over 80 deaths and nearly 3,000 infections, according to the New York Times. Health officials around the globe are asking any recent travelers from China to self-isolate, the Guardian reports.