Deputy abbot Mahapromphong from Wat Suthi Wararam Buddhist temple puts on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before going to administer rapid Covid-19 coronavirus tests to residents in the Charoen Krung neighbourhood in Bangkok on July 30, 2021. ( AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA)

Fake chain message claims Thai doctor ordered lockdown after Covid-19 variant 'outbreak'

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A message circulating on Facebook, Twitter and Line claims a doctor at Thailand's largest hospital warned people in the kingdom to stay indoors after medics recorded an outbreak of a Covid-19 variant known as Lambda. The claim is false: as of August 26, 2021, the Thai Department of Disease Control said no outbreak of the Lambda variant had been recorded in the kingdom. The hospital that employs the doctors cited in the posts said he had not issued the purported warning.

The message was shared in a Thai-language Facebook post on August 20.

It translates to English as: "Urgent urgent urgent Dr Prasit has told the public to lockdown their families, as doctors are unable to contain the severe outbreak. Listen carefully and share this message".

"There has been an outbreak, which is probably the Lambda strain. Symptoms include coughing blood and death."

Dr Prasit refers to Professor Prasit Watanapa, dean of the faculty of medicine at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok.

Dr Prasit has previously been targeted by false claims.

The post shows a screenshot of a message that was shared on Line, one of Asia's most popular messaging apps.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on August 25, 2021

In June 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the Lambda coronavirus variant as a variant of interest.

Since it was detected in Peru in December 2020, the variant has spread to more than 40 countries in the world, according to data from GISAID science initiative.

The same claim was shared here and here on Facebook, here and here on Twitter, and on Line.

The claim is false.

Thailand's Department of Disease Control said the Lambda variant had not been detected in the kingdom.

"We have measures in place to determine what kind of Covid-19 strains have been detected," Dr. Kajornsak Kaewcharat, Deputy Director-General of the institute, told AFP on August 25.

"There are no reports of the Lambda strain in Thailand, or in our neighbouring countries," he said.

Thailand does not appear on a list of countries collated by GISAID where the Lambda variant has been detected.

Screenshot of a map showing countries with confirmed Lambda variant cases on GISAID's website, taken on August 25, 2021

Dr Prasit did not issue the purported warning, Siriraj Hospital's Faculty of Medicine said in a statement on August 1.

The statement reads: "Regarding the circulated claims that Dr Prasit, who is the Dean of Siriraj hospital, has made an announcement to request cooperation from the public to lockdown themselves and their families, due to an outbreak of the Lambda strain, the Faculty of Medicine of Siriraj Hospital would like to clarify that the claim is false information.

"The claim has previously circulated as a voice clip on numerous occasions. We would like to confirm that the claim, both in the format of forwarded text and audio recording, did not come from Dr Prasit Watanapa, Dean of Siriraj Hospital's faculty of medicine".