Is This Image of Women Washing Discarded Masks From Kenya?

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A tweet shared on the Ma3Route account, a Kenyan Twitter account that routinely shares traffic updates, shows images of discarded masks being washed and contains text warning the public about purchasing unsanitary masks.

The tweet contains an image of women washing masks, another image showing discarded masks and other images of packed masks, implying that the discarded masks are collected, washed, packed up and sold to unsuspecting commuters and motorists. “You might be buying Covid-19 with your own cash”, the tweet warns.

Background

Piga Firimbi has previously looked into misinformation and disinformation regarding face masks that are currently in use to curb the spread of COVID-19. This includes a fact-check debunking a misleading tweet claiming to show Tanzanian leaders on masks while allegedly mourning former President John Magufuli, as well as false claims that masks are fitted with tracking devices among other items.

The World Health Organization recommends the use of face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, with the administration of COVID-19 vaccines in at least 179 countries as of April 28 according to a vaccine tracker by Reuters, countries such as Israel have suspended the rule that people must wear face masks in public.

Verification

A Google image reverse search reveals that the images shared on Twitter initially trended in April 2020. They were republished on posts bearing various claims, including false claims that the images are from Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, neither is it from DRC as is indicated on a screenshot of an article shared on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Twitter handle.

Piga Firimbi found that the images are actually from Mozambique. They were first published by Mozambique-based journalist on his Twitter account on April 18, 2020. The tweet indicated that the images came from Mozambique’s Dondo District where about 25,000 discarded masks were apparently being prepared for resale. This report and images were also featured in an article published on the Club of Mozambique news website which states that this operation was run at a warehouse belonging to a Chinese national. The perpetrators were arrested, and the masks destroyed, the article indicates.

Verdict

The tweet insinuating that the image showing women washing discarded masks is from Kenya is FALSE.

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Linda Ngari