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Mar 23, 2020

Sarawee Family Threatened by Fake COVID-19 News About 4 Year-Old Boy

A man in Stann Creek is appealing to the public to stop the fake posts about persons allegedly infected with the novel coronavirus. Derrington Ramirez says that he and his family became targets of death threats over the weekend after persons began to share false information that his son tested positive for the virus. He told us that it was a terrifying experience and he wouldn’t want to see another family experience it.  Today, we visited Ramirez in Sarawee Village, along the Stann Creek Valley Road, where he shared his experience and asked the public to refrain from sharing rumors and rely on official sources of information. Here’s the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Over the weekend, Derrington Ramirez and his family were put through extreme distress because of false COVID-19 information that was shared on Facebook. Ramirez’s baby boy was sick in the southern regional hospital, and like many other patients, was swabbed for the novel coronavirus.


Derrington Ramirez, Father

“He has asthma. He travels with asthma and he developed this cough over the weekend and we took him to the hospital. So, when we got there, because of the symptoms and so, the doctor and nurses feel that it is this COVID-19. So, they said all the symptoms he the show dah towards that. So, they said they had to run some test on him and that is what they did.”


The baby’s result was negative for the virus. But before the family received the official news from the doctors – this irresponsible post was made on Facebook. It claimed that a four-year-old baby from Sarawee was confirmed as the first case in Belize. But that wasn’t true. Ramirez and his family were easily identified because of the information shared even about his job. That post brought on death threats and additional stress to the family. Derrington Ramirez says it was tough to deal with.


Derrington Ramirez

Derrington Ramirez

“Somewhere, somehow somebody post up something that it is confirmed that he has this COVID-19. Now, that gone viral. And that is where a panic started with the family, with neighbours, and different people weh we come in contact with. And these allegations are very serious. People nuh understand when they do things like that, they put people life in jeopardy. Because I get certain calls weh people the talk, ‘oh we wah come burn down unu house because unu the spread this virus.’ First, I get some – I don’t even know weh they get mi number from. They called me private and I have at least six or seven private calls weh ‘ Bwai we hear unu have the COVID-19 over deh dah Sarawee and we hear that dah you and yuh pickney deh. If we meet unu outta road we wah do you this. And now they had me on my guard and they would have me kill innocent people. Because if I am at home and you come and you the look suspicious, I have license weapon and I would do you something to protect my family. So, this is the kind of thing you go through when people do these false allegatiosn out here. They have no idea what they di put you inna. They feel like they the do headline news – they the bring out the first news and they don’t know that dah danger they di put wah family inna. So, thank God we are negative and I am going to lock up mi self now.”


He now cautions the public to be sensitive about what is shared online. He says the public should practice recommended preventative measures during this challenging time and avoid adding panic and causing pain to already worried families.


Derrington Ramirez

“My advice to these people who are doing these false rumors and things is to stop. It is nothing nice. Unu nuh know the pain weh unu put person through. Fi mek it mi be fi be the first case, I was traumatized. I was frightened. My family, everybody. I got a wake-up call from my bredda, saying bwai you nuh see this thing weh deh round on Facebook bout how deh say your son deh yah and suh? And that right deh spook me out.  You know it affect the lee kids deh a lot because I have four more kids and I have nieces and nephews weh deh round and hear deh talking and I listen to dem among themselves the tell each other we wah dead. So, it spook them out and yes it was very sad and painful that mi lee bwai deh deh the punish with his own different sickness than this COVID -19 and people gwein and say these rumors.   Today, I feel much better. The results are out and thank God for that. I pray for other families and everybody follow the protocols; wash your hands and stay inside and hopefully this thing pass away one day.”


The false information caused the Ramirez family a great deal of stress over the weekend – and should serve as a caution to persons posting and sharing inaccurate information online that can endanger lives. When the first case was confirmed today, persons online rushed to try to identify the individual. Across the world, public health officials condemn this act. They say that keeping coronavirus patients anonymous is critical to battling the outbreak. To reveal the identities of people – dead or alive – who have contracted the coronavirus can have far reaching implications. While the novel coronavirus is a pandemic – health officials will not out patients, for many reasons, including that it violates confidentiality. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Maryland, told the USA TODAY,  “Whether it’s HIV, syphilis, coronavirus or anything else, people simply won’t show up to their doctor if they feel they might be outed for a condition.” Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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