An Italian Carabiniere, paramilitary police man, stands near the coffins of died immigrants inside a hangar of Lampedusa's airport, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. A ship carrying African migrants towards Italy sank Thursday after a fire was set onboard to attract attention of any passing boats or people on shore when they ran into trouble. They had traveled for two full days and thought they had reached safety when they saw the lights of Lampedusa. Instead, at least 111 drowned and 155 survived, some of whom were in the water for three hours, clinging to anything buoyant, even empty water bottles. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Italy’s COVID-19 situation is dire but a photo of coffins is not from the coronavirus pandemic

AAP FactCheck March 25, 2020

The Statement

While cases of COVID-19 continue to spread worldwide, Italy remains among the countries recording the most new cases per day, with the death toll in excess of 6000.

As countries go into lockdown to stem infection rates, a Facebook post has highlighted Italy to emphasise the importance of staying home, using a photo of multiple coffins to reinforce the message.

The March 22 post from a Queensland-based Facebook user reads: “In case you’re still not convinced to stay home for you & ur beloved ones ÔǪ Here’s a picture from Italy!”

The post has been viewed more than 21,000 times and shared at least 200 times.

A Facebook post
 A post has pointed to the COVID-19 crisis in Italy to emphasise the importance of staying home. 

The Analysis

The first cases of COVID-19 emerged in December 2019, when a mysterious illness reported in Wuhan, China. As of March 24 the virus has spread to more than 150 countries with 372,757 cases globally and 16,231 deaths. In Italy, there have been 63,927 cases and 6077 deaths recorded.

The first cases in Italy were reported on January 31 in Rome. These were followed by outbreaks in the Lombardy region, where 16 million people were placed under quarantine in the first week of March. At that stage, the death toll in Italy was 230, with the mortality rate standing at 36 per day.

The post urges people to stay home, which is in line with official advice in Australia and New Zealand on minimising social interactions to limit the spread of the coronavirus. However the problem is the photograph of an aircraft hangar filled with coffins is unrelated to COVID-19. The picture by news agency AFP was first published on October 5, 2013, following the sinking two days earlier of a boat carrying hundreds of African asylum-seekers off the Italian island of Lampedusa. The boat had left Libya 13 days before, carrying up to 500 people, according to survivors.

A UNHCR report on the tragedy says that when the boat’s engine stopped off the Italian coast, asylum seekers set fire to clothing in their attempts to be seen, but “fishing boats passed without helping”. Only 155 people survived and 366 were killed. The AFP photo shows the coffins of some of the victims in a hangar of Lampedusa airport.

The coffins of migrants inside the hangar of Lampedusa's airport
┬áThe coffins of migrants inside a hangar of Lampedusa’s airport, Italy, on October 5, 2013.┬á

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the post to be partly false. Italy continues to record one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases per day and many countries are in lockdown in an attempt to make people stay at home to stem infection rates. However, the photo is unrelated to COVID-19. It shows some of the coffins of migrants who died after a boat sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013.

Partly False – The claims of the content are a mixture of accurate and inaccurate or the primary claim is misleading or incomplete.

AAP FactCheck is an accredited member of the International Fact-Checking Network. If you would like to support our independent, fact-based journalism, you can make a contribution to AAP here.

All information, text and images included on the AAP Websites is for personal use only and may not be re-written, copied, re-sold or re-distributed, framed, linked, shared onto social media or otherwise used whether for compensation of any kind or not, unless you have the prior written permission of AAP. For more information, please refer to our standard terms and conditions.