Social media posts falsely suggest that news outlets are misusing a boy’s image to report the same child died of COVID-19 in three different countries. The posts actually refer to three different young people who died from the novel coronavirus in Portugal, Belgium and the UK.
Older adults are at a significantly increased risk from the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization has reported. But age is not the only factor in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe.
“The very notion that ‘COVID-19 only affects older people’ is factually wrong,” Kluge has stated. “As a colleague of mine recently said, ‘Young people are not invincible.'”
Kluge added: “Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or twenties, with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away.”
In fact, cases of young people becoming ill or dying from COVID-19 have been reported around the world. But posts circulating on social media falsely imply that news media have been misusing the image of one young COVID-19 victim, reporting his death in different countries across Europe.
One Facebook post features side-by-side screenshots of three purported articles that allegedly use the same image of a young boy to report that a child had died from COVID-19 in the UK, Portugal and Belgium. The post reads, “CHILD DIES IN 3 COUNTRIES OF CORONA VIRUS.” Similar claims involving the same child’s photo have also appeared on Twitter.
The child pictured in the post is Vitor Rafael Bastos Godinho, a Portuguese boy who died at age 14 after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Record, a Portuguese newspaper, first wrote about Godinho’s passing on March 29. Other media outlets quickly followed suit, publishing stories about Godinho’s death alongside images of the child, including the photo used in the social media posts. Godinho is correctly identified in the screenshot from the Daily Mail (center) in the Facebook post.
The social media post implies that news outlets then used Godinho’s image to report the death of a 12-year-old girl in Belgium on March 31. The Facebook post includes screenshots of an internet search result showing a Daily Express article featuring Godinho’s image with the caption, “Belgium coronavirus: 12-year old girl dies of coronavirus…”
Indeed, the Daily Express article does use Godinho’s image, but not to depict the unnamed 12-year-old girl who had died. Rather, Godinho’s photo was included in the story in reference to other young people who had died of COVID-19 in Europe, and it accurately identifies the photo as that of Godinho.
Prior to the passing of the unnamed Belgian girl, Godinho was believed to be “Europe’s youngest coronavirus victim.” There are no pictures of the Belgian girl in the Daily Express article or any other article we were able to find.
The social media post also claims that Godinho’s image is being used in the news report of a 13-year-old boy in the UK, Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, who died from the coronavirus. The post includes a screenshot of what appears to be an article in the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper, with the headline, “Schoolboy, 13, with no health conditions becomes UK’s youngest coronavirus victim.”
Abdulwahab’s death on March 30 has been widely reported. Madinah College, an Islamic sciences school where Ismail’s sister is a teacher, set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Abdulwahab’s funeral and family. A photo of Abdulwahab does not appear in coverage of his death and funeral. There is no photo of any child with the Daily Record story. It is unclear where the incorrect combination of Godinho’s image and Abdulwahab’s name originated.
So, social media posts do reference the deaths of three young people from COVID-19 in Europe. But the posts do not show that news outlets misused the same image of one boy to report the deaths of three children.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. World Health Organization. Accessed 5 Apr 2020.
“Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Children — United States, February 12-April 2, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 6 Apr 2020.
Kluge, Hans Henri P. “Statement – Older people are at highest risk from COVID-19, but all must act to prevent community spread.” World Health Organization. 2 Apr 2020.
Feuer, William. “WHO says ‘more and more’ young people are dying from the coronavirus.” CNBC. 3 Apr 2020.
Hughes, Lee. “This some bad virus. killed him 3 times!” Facebook. 14 Apr 2020.
shhhhitsdundeebear (@shhhhitsdundee1). “Wtf? Really.” 3 Apr 2020.
Cat (@Just_Cat1). “13 yr old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab also appears to be 14 yr old Vitor Godinho. & both have supposedly died of coronavirus!!” Twitter. 3 Apr 2020.
Record. “Vítor Godinho era jogador de futsal e tinha 14 anos: morreu hoje com coronavírus.” Record. 29 Mar 2020
Couzens, Gerard and Dan Keane. “‘JUST A LITTLE BOY’ Teen, 14, becomes Europe’s youngest coronavirus victim as tributes flood in.” TheSun.com. 1 Apr 2020.
O’Neill, Marnie. “Covid 19 coronavirus: Vitor Godinho, 14, becomes Europe’s youngest known coronavirus fatality.” New Zealand Herald. 31 Mar 2020.
Couzens, Gerard and Luke Andrews. “Pictured: Portuguese schoolboy, 14, who had psoriasis becomes ‘youngest’ person to die of coronavirus in Europe.” Daily Mail UK. 29 Mar 2020.
Brown, Lee. “14-year-old Portuguese boy becomes Europe’s youngest coronavirus victim.” New York Post. 30 Mar 2020.
Fahey, Ryan. “12-year-old Belgian girl becomes the youngest in Europe to die from coronavirus.” Daily Mail UK. 31 Mar 2020.
Dresch, Matthew. “Schoolboy, 13, with no health conditions becomes UK’s youngest coronavirus victim.” Daily Record, 31 Mar 2020.
BBC News. “Coronavirus: 13-year-old boy dies, says London hospital trust.” BBC News. 31 Mar 2020.
Marsh, Sarah. “No family at funeral of 13-year-old coronavirus victim after siblings develop symptoms.” The Guardian. 3 Apr 2020.
“UK: Boy, 13, dies of coronavirus ‘without any family close by.‘” Al Jazeera News. 1 Apr 2020.
Stephenson, Mark. “Supporting the family of Ismail.” GoFundMe.com. Created 30 Mar 2020.
Perring, Rebecca. “Europe’s youngest coronavirus victim: 12-year old girl dies – doctor admits experts shocked.” Daily Express. 31 Mar 2020.