A 3-year-old viral photo of a woman lying on the ground connected to an oxygen tank on an Indian street is not linked to the current COVID-19 crisis the country is experiencing in spring 2021. The caption “THE MEDIA IS LYING” is also misleading, as the mislabeled screenshot circulating was not posted by a major news outlet. Apart from one newspaper Reuters could find, most mainstream media reports are using current photographs to illustrate India’s dire healthcare crisis in April and May 2021.
The posts show a tweet dated April 19, 2021, by Twitter user named Aarif Shah (@aarifshaah) featuring a woman sitting on the ground beside an oxygen tank and breathing apparatus with the caption, “This is where India is right now”. Beside it, they feature a screenshot of a YouTube video of the same scene and circle its publishing date as being three years old. One post then has text below that reads in all caps, “The media is lying.”
The 3-year-old photo has indeed been used in an article critical of the government’s current handling of the current health crisis by the National Herald of India, seen here .
But aside from the Herald, Reuters found no other examples of mainstream or major media using the miscaptioned image for their reports of the crisis unfolding in the south Asian country. The user @aarifshaah does not identify himself as a journalist on Twitter, with his bio reading “Scribe. Opinionated. Views are strictly personal. RTs not endorsements.” His LinkedIn profile does not indicate he works for a mainstream media outlet (here).
According to IndiaTimes.com, the original photo was taken at Uttar Pradesh's Agra Medical College in India in 2018 and can be seen here here . A video on YouTube provides the back story and can be seen here . A screenshot of this video is present in the claims on social media.
Many media outlets in India and internationally have reported on its current COVID-19 crisis using accurate, corresponding footage. Some examples of such coverage can be seen on CNN here , BBC here , PBS here , Al Jazeera here , the Times of India here and India Today here .
COVID-19 cases surged past 20 million on Tuesday, with the capital New Delhi registering about 20,000 cases a day. With hospitals running out of beds and oxygen and morgues and crematoria overflowing, experts say the actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher. According to a Reuters tally, total infections were more than 20.2 million, second only to the United States (here).
Missing context. The image of a woman lying in the street connected to an oxygen tank predates the COVID-19 pandemic by three years. Mainstream media is not exaggerating the health crisis: Reuters and others have documented both via news photos and video the extent of the pandemic’s toll in the country.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.