Police have named and fined a woman who claimed she had filmed empty corridors inside Bromley’s PRUH and other hospitals alleging it proves that Covid-19 is a hoax.
Hannah Dean, who describes herself as a “registered journalist” from Portsmouth, posted the images on Facebook from hospitals across south-east England.
Police said the claims had been causing “angst in the community,” whilst an NHS trust branded her actions “untrue and highly disrespectful.”
The photos of corridors were claimed to be taken at the the Princess Royal University hospital near Bromley, Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, Southampton General hospital, and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.
Alongside pictures said to be taken at the Portsmouth hospital, she wrote: “Hospital is the quietest I have ever seen it! I walked all over the hospital, including A&E!
“I know this is hard to get our heads around, but the government are lying to us! And the reason why they’re lying to us… is very disturbing!”
Portsmouth Police said in a Facebook post: “Some of you will have seen the reports of persons attending local hospitals, taking photos of parts of the hospital that are not on the front line in the fight against Covid-19, and using the images to suggest hospitals are not being stretched.
“These actions have caused angst in the community, and have prompted a number of calls to us reporting the posts.
“We have identified the source of the posts and have today issued a fixed penalty notice to the person responsible under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020.
“Our colleagues across the NHS are working flat out to fight this virus, and we are all grateful for their continued efforts. There has been lots of publicity this weekend about us all doing our bit to stick to the rules and guidelines to support our NHS – we urge each and everyone of you to do the same.”
A spokesman for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in West Sussex, criticised the claims saying: “This is untrue and highly disrespectful to all the patients and families affected by Covid, as well as our staff who are working extremely hard in very challenging circumstances.
“We must stress, pictures of empty corridors do not mean our wards and intensive care units are empty.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference last week: “The kind of people who stand outside hospitals and say Covid is a hoax and this kind of stuff, really I do think they need to grow up.”
And Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said people claiming the situation is a “hoax” are responsible for potentially changing behaviour which will kill people, and are insulting to staff who have worked long shifts in the most demanding circumstances.
Sir Simon added: “Let’s just be completely straightforward about it. When people say that (Covid is a hoax) – it is a lie.”
A Hampshire Police spokesman said: “Officers investigating reports of an individual attending local hospitals, including Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, and taking photos in breach of current Covid-19 regulations, have issued a fixed penalty notice.
“A £200 fixed penalty notice has been issued to a 30-year-old woman under current Health Protection Regulations.”