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No evidence that food delivery man was coronavirus patient zero in Italy

March 9, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A Pakistani migrant delivering food is said to be patient zero of the new coronavirus in Italy. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Patient zero has yet to be identified in Italy. 

THE FACTS: As Italy closed all schools and universities this week, social media users began pushing the false claim asserting that the country had identified its patient zero. 

Italy, which has become the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, has reported more than 3,000 cases and 107 deaths. Free West Media, a media outlet that bills itself as offering coverage of Europe with a “western perspective,” pushed out the claim that Italy’s patient zero was a Pakistani migrant from Pavia, Italy, a town south of Milan. The claim was picked up by other media outlets and promoted by social media users, including an account known for spreading conspiracy theories. 

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Stephanie Brickman, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, confirmed to The Associated Press in an email that Italian authorities have yet to identify patient zero of the virus. 

“We know of no evidence to support this claim; the Italian authorities have been clear that it is not possible at this stage to identify patient zero,” she said. 

News articles including Free West Media falsely cited Adnkronos, an Italian media agency, in making the claim. On Feb. 29, Adnkronos released a story that a Pakistani man, who delivers Chinese food, did not quarantine himself in Italy after having a positive coronavirus test. 

The article makes no reference to the man being patient zero. 

More than 100,000 cases of the virus have been reported globally. The first case was reported in China in December. Thousands of patients from China have recovered from the virus, according to the AP. 

Free West Media did not respond to a request for comment. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536