30 September 2023

Misleading: This video does not show an American soldier trying to spread coronavirus in Wuhan

The video was taken in Brussels, Belgium, on March 10, 2020.

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A video of a man purportedly smearing saliva on the handrail on a train has circulated widely on messaging apps such as WhatsApp and LINE in the Chinese language.

The video has been accompanied by the claim that it shows an American soldier intentionally spreading the novel coronavirus in Wuhan during the seventh CISM Military World Games in October 2019.

In the video, the man is seen taking off his face mask and putting two fingers into his mouth before rubbing them on the pole in front of him. The accompanying message in Chinese says the epidemic was started by Americans.

Although the video footage itself is authentic, the associated claims are all groundless.

In fact, the video was taken in Brussels, Belgium, on March 10, 2020. Social media posts in French criticizing the man’s behavior can be found on Twitter (here and here) and YouTube (here and here).

Together, the video has been viewed close to two million times with thousands of shares and comments.

The social media posts include the hashtag #STIB, referring to the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company (STIB) that operates the metro line in the city.

The transport company responded to the incident through its official Twitter account in French. “The man (intoxicated) was arrested by the police and our security service,” they said.

“The subway train was withdrawn from service to be disinfected. Thank you for your message. Our metros are cleaned every day.”

The Brussels Times reported the incident the same day, adding that at least two commuters captured the man’s actions on video and posted their videos online.

The incident also made headlines in the U.S. (see New York Daily News) and the U.K. (MetroThe Independent).

In Taiwan, the same video was used with another false claim saying that “foreigners are intentionally spreading coronavirus to infect Taiwanese.” Taiwan Factcheck Center debunked the claim on March 23.

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