Russian President Vladimir Putin may be known to take extreme measures in the past, but there is no truth the claims that he has unleashed lions and tigers to force citizens indoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A photo of a lion roaming the streets has circulated in social media and has caught the buzz of netizens shared what was apparently an old photo which was edited with a made-up headline regarding Russia.
The hoax became viral and seemed to be rapidly circulating most in India, a place that has more lions and tigers compared to Russia. There have been posts comparing the current two-week lockdown imposed in the country to Putin's allegedly more iron-fisted approach when it comes to COVID-19 containment.
The photo that went viral was initially posted by Twitter user Nasir Chinioti who wrote that Putin has dropped 800 of the lions and tigers all over Russia pushing people to stay home and avoid the streets. The post has been liked, shared and retweeted tens of thousands of times. The post included a photo of a lion standing in a parking lot along with a picture of the Russian president.
Vladimir Putin has given Russians two options.
You stay at home for 2 weeks or you go to jail for 5years.
No middle ground.
RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin has Dropped 800 tigers and Lions all over the Country to push people to stay Home.. Stay Safe Everyone!! pic.twitter.com/vI1NSpe5TR — Nasir Chinioti ناصر چنیوٹی (@_Chinioty) March 22, 2020
Twitter user admits his tweet was meant to be a joke
Chinioti, however, reacted to the allegations that he was spreading fake news by telling one Twitter user that the photos were meant as a joke. His Twitter bio also indicated that he was a comedian.
According to Global News, the photo was traced back to an article by Daily Mail from an April 2016 story, which indicated that the lion in the photo was photographed at Johannesburg, South Africa and not in Russia.
Regardless, the photo has already sparked rumors online, which prompted fact-checking websites to check its validity, and also created a flood of fact-checking stories from India-based news outlet.
Fake news spread amid COVID-19 outbreak
The widespread of COVID-19 also paved the way for fake news about the crisis to spread like wildfire, many hoaxes, fake news stories and conspiracy theories have risen in the midst of the pandemic. This has brought both fear and panic to the already fear-stricken world.
A Twitter user even expressed concern regarding this and said that there is no telling whether the coronavirus is more dangerous or the hoaxes that arose amid the world wide crisis.
Russia's real response to COVID-19
Despite the allegations of Putin using his iron-fist to implement social distancing protocols and containment measures, Dr. Melita Vujnovic, the representative of the World Health Organization in Russia said that the reason why Russia has a low COVID-19 cases is that they have followed the advice of WHO to "test, test, test," and has started testing since the end of January.
Moreover, she also added that Russia also took broader sets of actions in addition to the testings. She also added that the identification of cases, tracing of contacts and isolation, all of which are recommended by WHO were in place at all times within the country.
On top of this, she also said that the country was able to implement social distancing protocols early which resulted in the avoidance of an uncontrolled outbreak.