Is this Photo of Italians Killed by COVID-19?

Photos of coffins laid out on the floor with red roses on top have been circulating online.

Mostly shared over the last week and the days after, the photos are accompanied by claims that they are of coffins of people who have succumbed to COVID-19 in Italy.

Blogs, too, have latched on to the claims. A blog article published on March 21 with news of the spread of the virus in the European nation, uses the same photo as its featured image.

Background

The on-going global pandemic of COVID-19 was first confirmed to have spread to Italy on 31st January 2020, when two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive for the virus. A week later, an Italian man who had travelled from Wuhan, China, became the 3rd victim. Since then, clusters of cases have continued to be detected in Italy.

The Italian government suspended all flights from to and from China on January 31 and declared a state of emergency. By March 11, a majority of the provinces in Italy had been placed under quarantine, nearly all commercial activity, except for supermarkets and pharmacies halted, and funerals banned. March 19 saw Italy become the country with the highest number of confirmed deaths in the world.

Hospitals there have been under immense pressure as their bed capacities can no longer handle the huge numbers of infected people. Morgues are inundated and caskets are piling up in Churches. The military has had to step in to help move the bodies using army trucks.

As of March 26, the number of COVID-19 cases stands at 74,386, 7,503 deaths and 9,362 recoveries (see our live tracker for up to date numbers), making Italy the world’s new epicentre of the virus, after a decline in the number of cases in China.

Verification

An image search using a verification tool (Yandex) shows that the image is an Agence France-Presse, AFP, photo taken at the hangar of Lampedusa Airport on October 5, 2013. This was after a boat carrying almost 500 Eritrean and Somali migrants capsized, killing more than 100 people off the coast of Southern Italy.

The New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian reported on the incident.

Verdict

The photo has nothing to do with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the claim is, therefore, FALSE.

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Peris Gachahi

Peris Gachahi is a reporter at Africa Uncensored.She is passionate about human interest stories told through in-depth documentaries, data stories and digital storytelling.