The Tab Lancaster has been rebuked by Lancaster University for publishing fake news about a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The article was originally published on 24th January with the title 'BREAKING: Coronavirus reported on Lancaster Uni campus'. The sub-heading read: 'The potentially lethal disease has been reported on campus'. The article alleged that there was a confirmed case of the virus and used supposed screenshots from a group chat as evidence.
The University rebuked The Tab later in the day, providing an update to their official statement that read: 'A story was published today by The Tab on 24th January which incorrectly reported a confirmed case at Lancaster. There are no suspected or confirmed cases at the University of Lancaster… The Tab newspaper has pulled the factually incorrect line from their piece which previously stated there was a confirmed case at Lancaster.'
Subsequently, the article headline was altered to 'Risk of coronavirus reported on Lancaster Uni campus', noting 'No cases are suspected as of yet.' Spineless understands the author of the article regrets his role in it. Scaremongering about the coronavirus has the potential to ostracise Chinese or Southeast Asian international students, many of whom already find themselves isolated on the Bailrigg campus.
There have been some official reactions to the virus in Lancaster that have, perhaps, been excessive. Lancaster University's official statement is understandable, but LUSU also thought it necessary to put out an update and health advice of its own. Spineless notes that those with concerns or queries about the virus can even take the opportunity to contact Lancaster University’s dedicated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campus-based scaremongering comes as a research team, including Lancaster Medical School’s Dr Jonathan Read, has estimated that only 5% of the actual cases of coronavirus in Wuhan have been identified. The research, based on reported case information, found that by the 4th February, the number of infected in Wuhan is likely to exceed 190,000.
However, while there have been over 30 tests for the virus in the UK, all have come back negative at the time of writing. The Chief Medical Officer has said there is a 'fair chance' the UK will see a case, while the Department of Health has issued a statement saying 'There are currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is low.'
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far declined to declare a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), but they have stressed the urgency of the outbreak and provided guidance to China and other affected countries.