Police arrest coronavirus prankster in Moscow


Police in Moscow have arrested a man suspected of imitating a coronavirus victim and collapsing on a metro train as a prank, officials say.

In footage posted online, passengers are seen trying to assist a man in a mask as he stumbles and falls to the floor of a busy train carriage.

They then rush away when he appears to suffer serious convulsions.

The suspect was detained on suspicion of criminal hooliganism and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Russia’s interior ministry confirmed the arrest on Monday, adding that a search was under way to find two people who were heard shouting in the video that the suspect was infected with the new coronavirus.

“Accomplices shouted phrases about the presence of a dangerous viral infection… provoking a panic among passengers,” a spokeswoman for the ministry, Irina Volk, said in a statement.

A lawyer representing the suspect said his client had voluntarily agreed to be interviewed after he was contacted by police.

“He is in shock. He came of his own accord, he didn’t hide. He did not expect all this. The interrogating officer himself stated that the case will probably be dismissed,” the lawyer said.

The coronavirus outbreak has so far killed more than 1,000 people in China and has spread to more than 20 countries, including Russia, which has reported two cases.

Russian authorities have quarantined at least 144 people in a fenced-off facility in Siberia, near the location where one of the infected people is receiving treatment.

Protective face masks are used to help limit infection. Experts, however, are sceptical about their effectiveness.

The main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it and washing your hands can minimise the risk of spreading the disease.


Nneka Ukachukwu