NEWS

Police probe misinformation on face masks

police-probe-misinformation-on-face-masks

Ahead of the scheduled reopening of Greek schools on September 7, the Greek Police’s cyber crimes division has launched an investigation into certain groups on Facebook that have been exhorting parents and children to defy authorities’ demands for the mandatory use of face masks by pupils to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The probe was launched following Thursday’s press reports about the trend along with a plethora of anonymous complaints to the police by citizens.

The division is expected to ask Facebook to revoke the group managers’ confidentiality rights so that they can charge them with disseminating misinformation, Kathimerini understands.

One of the groups has been urging parents and schoolchildren to defy official calls for the use of a mask with some members questioning the efficiency of the measure and others suggesting it could actually cause harm.

“It’s simple. If there’s no risk from using a mask, then the minister should assure us of that in writing,” one member wrote, referring to Education Minister Niki Kerameus.

“The mask on children can provoke sudden death!” another member claimed. Another suggested that there was a way around the obligation. “Even if they force us, at gunpoint, to send our child [to school] wearing a mask, there is another way to avoid it,” a third member wrote. 

A similar group in Cyprus, also on Facebook, is even more influential, numbering more than 24,000 members. That group’s managers have posted a disclaimer, refusing to take responsibility for claims posted by its members.

Earlier this month, the Athens court of first instance prosecutor ordered a preliminary investigation into reports, chiefly in the electronic press, calling on citizens to defy measures put in place by the authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The probe aims to establish whether the authors of the reports in question should be charged with public incitement to civil disobedience. One of the reports claims that Covid-19 was “manufactured” in China before being modified in the US under the coordination of Bill Gates.

Other countries have seen a similar backlash by members of the public against coronavirus-related measures with recent protests in Madrid and Brussels against laws making face masks mandatory.

In Greece, authorities have repeatedly stressed the importance of face masks and social distancing as the best way to aver the transmission of the virus amid an upward trend in cases.

On Thursday, health authorities announced 269 new infections, bringing the total to 7,934. There were no new fatalities, keeping the death toll at 235.