Reports of an outbreak of the new Coronavirus at Sang Jiang shopping center have been declared fake news.
A viral social media post spreading panic about an outbreak of Coronavirus at the Chinese shopping center in central Vientiane has been declared as fake news by authorities at the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism.
The social media post, which featured audio clips of warning purportedly recorded by stall owners at Sang Jiang shopping center, spread quickly in the Lao social media earlier this week, with netizens alarmed by the possibility of a virus outbreak in the capital.
A notice was quickly issued by the general manager of the shopping center, Liang Kai Bao, stating that the reports of the closure of the center due to the infection of 19 persons were untrue and that the shopping center was open for trading as usual.
The notice then warned that anyone who continued to share or spread this fake news would be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
According to a report in the Lao Post, the Sang Jiang shopping mall was closed temporarily as police officers searched for a group of thieves who stole mobile phones and other items from several stalls.
Authorities are calling on all social media users to refrain from sharing fake news and to exercise caution when posting or sharing.
Lao Minister of Health, Professor Bounkong Sihavong, spoke at a press conference in Vientiane in late January responding to rumors of patients in Lao hospitals that had contracted the virus. He maintained that there had been no confirmation of any patients infected with the new coronavirus in Laos and that the government would take swift action against anyone who spread misinformation in social media.
Over two hundred and sixty market shops and stalls were devastated by a fire at Sang Jiang market in July 2017, while the new Sang Jiang Shopping Center was opened shortly afterward.