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Infectious Diseases

Updated 30 March 2020

THAT WhatsApp voicenote wasn't meant to be shared - it was from a worried daughter to her mother

A WhatsApp voicenote that had been shared widely on social media, was meant to have just been a message of caution from a worried daughter, to her mother.

A WhatsApp voicenote which was widely spread in SA, and shared under the pretense that it was from a top expert, was supposed to just be a message of caution from a worried daughter, to her mother.

On Saturday the voicenote, which Health24 has now established was sent by an unidentified young doctor, had been circulating with an accompanying message claiming the voice was of a top expert at Groote Schuur hospital.

But the expert, Dr Diana Hardie, confirmed to Health24 that the voice on the recording was not hers. Groote Schuur Hospital further distanced itself from the voicenote, in a statement.

Health24 can confirm that the recording was not meant to be circulated, but was meant for the mother of the person who recorded it, only.

On the voicenote, the person speaking refers often to Professor Zilla, which Health24 further established was Professor Peter Zilla, head of the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Chris Barnard Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

After reaching out to Professor Zilla, he confirmed that the voicenote was not intended to be shared.

"This was a private message of a young doctor to her mother to scare her into staying home, as she falls into a high-risk group," Professor Zilla told Health24.

It was never meant to end up as an objective truth on social media, he said.

He also referred to the statement from Groote Schuur Hospital, saying that he hopes it clarifies the issue.

Punishment for fake news

It's unclear where in the process it was decided, or who decided to claim that the person speaking on the voicenote was Dr Hardie.

But the government has warned of repercussions for people who create and spread fake news.On the government's website, it clearly says: "Anyone that creates or spreads fake news about the coronavirus Covid-19 is liable for prosecution. Verify the information before you share information."

Earlier this week, News24 reported that three people would be charged in connection with fake news.

The three people were the alleged source of two fake news articles which went viral on social media.

The articles were about Chinese people inside a building at the Lebombo border post, who were supposedly using corrupt means to enter South Africa after they were refused entry at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The post labelled South Africa a "banana republic".

The other fake news article was about Japanese nationals who flew to Mozambique and tried to buy their way into South Africa, the minister said.

"Fake news tends to be more dangerous than the virus itself because it worries people.

"Because of this, and because we are in possession of the original source of the picture, I've instructed my officials to lay a charge with the police.

"This is the first test case of whether people posting fake news can be charged or not," Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

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Image credit: Getty Images