A 20-year-old company driver has been fined VND10 million ($420) for posting false news of a 14-day HCMC lockdown.
Nguyen Van Dung, working in the city’s Tan Phu District, said in a March 26 Facebook post that Ho Chi Minh City would be placed under lockdown for 14 days from March 28 over the Covid-19 pandemic.
After this false information sparked public concern, he was summoned by local police and admitted that he hadn’t bothered to check the information before sharing it on social media. He said he was only doing it to warn people about the worsening pandemic situation and not for personal publicity or approval.
Under current regulations, individuals who post fake news on social media can be slapped with fines of up to VND15 million ($650), but Dung was considered for a more lenient punishment as he had a good family background, it was his first violation and he had sincerely admitted his wrongdoing, police said.
Police officials said that besides Dung, many other Facebook accounts shared the lockdown information on social media, prompting city authorities to dismiss such rumors publicly.
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While Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked major cities to prepare for lockdown scenarios, no such order has been passed. Phuc has banned crowds of more than 20 people and ordered all localities across the country to close non-essential businesses from March 28 until April 15, saying the country has entered a two-week critical stage in its Covid-19 battle.
On March 26, police in HCMC cooperated with the city’s Department of Information and Communications to identify 18 Facebook accounts posting this piece of fake news. Of these, eight have removed the post after the city government officially dismissed the rumor, while five accounts in Binh Dinh, Dong Nai and Quang Tri have not yet deleted their posts. Five accounts in foreign countries that have posted the false information have not been dealt with.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Vietnam in late January, authorities have slapped fines on hundreds of individuals for posting fake news on Covid-19, including three celebrities.
Vietnam has so far confirmed 194 Covid-19 infections. With 27 patients in Hanoi released Monday, the number of patients discharged from hospital has gone up to 52.
To date, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than 33,900 people as it spread to 199 countries and territories.