February 28, 2020 / 9:14 AM / a month ago

False claim: graphic shows how coronavirus-infected Wuhan residents may have spread the virus through travel

An article published on worldofbuzz.com and shared on Facebook here carries the headline "New Graphic Shows How Infected Wuhan Patients May Have Spread The Virus Globally Via Travel". Beneath the headline is a graphic showing links between world cities in red. ​

In the body of the article here ,  a larger version of the map is provided and carries the following text underneath:​

​”This graphic, which paints a rather terrifying look into where the virus could wind up spreading to in the span of three months, was created based off on information that was obtained from mobile phone data from Baidu and flight data of 60,000 Wuhan residents that left the country in the critical two-week period prior to the city’s complete lockdown.”​

According to the article, the map was the work of researchers from Britain’s Southampton University World Pop Project. This is incorrect. The researchers at the WorldPop project (see www.worldpop.org/) have indeed studied  how far the Wuhan novel coronavirus could have travelled. They published a travel network-based modelling study, which can be seen here . However, the map with the links between world cities in red does not feature in this publication.​

The same research team later tweeted a link to the report, and attached the picture of the map image to the tweet. After some Twitter users raised concerns over the choice of image (see thread here), the research team took down the initial tweet and chose a different accompanying image to accompany the link. They tweeted here

“Concerns understood - simply intended to be an illustrative picture of the global air network, but we can re-post with a new image.”

The map graphic in question does indeed show a representation of the global air network and can be seen in this report here that examines the role airlines and airports may play in spreading vector-borne diseases.​

VERDICT

False: the graphic depicted in the picture beneath the headline, and referred to in the body of the text, shows global air traffic routes, not the destinations reached by Wuhan residents prior to the city lockdown.

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