Hong Kong Scientist's Joke To Blow Coronavirus With Fan Passed Off As Genuine

Update: 2022-01-20 09:03 GMT

An image that appears to show a top Hong Kong microbiologist with an electric fan attached to his forehead is circulating in social media posts that claim he urged the public to wear the device to "blow away" coronavirus. Some social media users appeared to believe the picture was genuine. In reality, the posts show a digitally altered image. AFP found no credible reports that the health expert gave such advice.

"Expert advises citizens wear an electric fan to blow away the virus," reads Chinese text superimposed on an image shared on Facebook on January 16.

The image appears to show Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist and advisor to the Hong Kong government, wearing a fan strapped to his forehead.

"This idiot is really crazy, he says we have to wear two masks at the same time, and now even a fan," the Facebook post reads.

Yuen recommended that people wear two masks to help protect against the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on January 18, 2021

The same picture was shared on Facebook and Twitter alongside a similar claim.

Some social media users appeared to believe the posts showed a genuine photo of Yuen.

"Which means if there's a virus around, it can blow it to the person in front of me?!" one person commented.

"This group of government anti-pandemic experts will do anything for the 'zero-case' mission for the Chinese government," another wrote.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong adheres to a strict "zero-Covid" policy that has kept cases low, but has largely cut the financial hub off from the rest of the world. 

However, the image is doctored and was shared in various Facebook posts as a joke, including here and here.

A reverse image search on Google found the original photo published in a report by Taiwan-based newspaper United Daily News on January 12. 

"Coping with Omicron Hong Kong experts: 2 surgical masks are recommended," the headline reads.

Yuen recommended Hong Kongers worried about Omicron transmission could wear two surgical masks, but later told the South China Morning Post that a combination of a surgical mask and a cloth mask might provide a better fit.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth mask on top of a disposable mask, but advises against wearing two disposable masks.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored photo (left) and the photo in the news report (right). 

A screenshot comparison of the doctored photo (L) and the photo in the UDN news report.

AFP found no credible media reports that Yuen advised wearing a fan to "blow away" coronavirus.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by BOOM staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Claim :  Hong Kong expert recommends people to wear fan to blow away coronavirus
Claimed By :  Posts on social media
Fact Check :  False
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