Authorities from across the world have told people not to make April Fools’ Day jokes about the growing coronavirus pandemic.
From Thailand to India, countries have told people not to make April Fools’ Day pranks related to coronavirus, with some threatening jail time as they seek to prevent the spread of rumors which could put lives at risk.
Google, which is famous for its annual spoofs, has cancelled the tradition because of the pandemic, which has killed about 40,000 people worldwide.
Google said it had suspended its annual April Fools’ tradition “out of respect for all those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let’s save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one,” it said in an internal email to staff.
Thailand said on Tuesday that April Fools’ Day jokes about the virus could be punished under a law carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
“It’s against the law to fake having COVID-19 this April Fools’ Day,” the government said on Twitter.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen took to Facebook to tell people not to prank about the virus, adding that anyone spreading rumors or false information could face up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$99,200).
In India, Maharashtra state’s cyber security unit said it would take legal action against anyone spreading fake news on April Fools’ Day.
“The state govt won’t allow anyone to spread rumors/panic on #Corona,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tweeted, adding that he had instructed the authorities to “act swiftly & strongly [against] such miscreants”.
The World Health Organisation has described it as an “infodemic”, which could increase the spread of the virus among vulnerable people.