Sri Lankan authorities say only two suspected coronavirus patients were hospitalised, and both later tested negative

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Multiple Facebook posts shared thousands of times claim that four patients infected with the novel coronavirus have been admitted to a hospital in Sri Lanka. The claim is misleading; local health authorities told AFP only two suspected patients were admitted, and stressed they have tested negative for COVID-19.

The claim was published here on Facebook on March 1, 2020.

The post, which has been shared more than 460 times, includes a photo of the District General Hospital in Negombo, a major city in western Sri Lanka.

Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post: 

Screenshot of the Facebook post

The post’s Sinhala text translates to English as: “Four corona patients in Negombo hospital / Three Sri Lankans among them, / Although everyone is slowly forgetting, it is only now that this virus has started spreading in our country. It's better for everyone to be safe.”

A similar claim was also made here, here, here and here on Facebook.

The posts were published within days of South Korea and Italy, two countries with large Sri Lankan expat communities, reporting spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases.

But the claim that four patients were hospitalised in Sri Lanka is misleading.

Dr. Ashan Pathirana, Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau Registrar clarified that while two Sri Lankans who returned from Italy were recently hospitalised in Sri Lanka, neither tested positive for the coronavirus.  

“Two Sri Lankans who had returned home from Italy were hospitalised on Saturday with a cough and fever but they have both been tested negative as of last evening,” he told AFP during a phone conversation on March 2, 2020. 

Dr. Pathirana also urged Sri Lankans to refrain from sharing unverified information that may lead to the marginalisation of Sri Lankans who return home from South Korea or Italy. 

Sri Lanka’s only confirmed coronavirus was a Chinese national who fell ill in early January 2020. The individual left Sri Lanka on February 19, 2020 after making a full recovery