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‘We have lost control’? Photo not of Italy’s prime minister during coronavirus crisis, and quote made up

A photo of a grey-haired man, tears running down his face as he stands in front of a microphone, has been posted on Facebook.

“Pray for Italy,” its description reads.

“Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ‘We have lost control, we have killed the epidemic physically and mentally. Can’t understand what more we can do, all solutions are exhausted on ground. Our only hope remains up in the Sky, God rescue your people.’”

Italy has so far been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, the country has over 74,000 cases of the coronavirus disease. More people – about 7,500 – have died in Italy than in China, the country where the outbreak began.

But does the photo show Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister? And did he really say this?

Brazilian president Bolsonaro

Our first step was to crop the photo and do a reverse image search. This revealed that it is in fact of Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil. Conte, the current prime minister of Italy, looks markedly different.

The image showed up on Poder360, a Brazilian news website, in a story about Bolsonaro. At a church service in Brasilia, on 17 December 2019, Bolsonaro spoke about his gratitude for surviving a stabbing he suffered during the 2018 election campaign he later won. “Excuse me. Few have a second life,” he told the crowd, according to translated remarks.

The occasion where Jair Bolsonaro spoke was also covered in video by Brazilian media outlets.

The photo does not show Italy’s prime minister weeping about the coronavirus outbreak.  

Conte quote can’t be found

The quote also does not match recent statements by the Italian leader, as curated on his official Facebook page

A look through Conte’s Facebook timeline shows that he continues to call for solidarity and sacrifices, after he signed a decree that institutes measures to curb the spread of the virus in Italy.

In a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Conte called for Italians to have courage, focus and sacrifice as they combat the virus. 

Looking through his recent statements on Italy’s measures to fight the new coronavirus, we have not seen any that indicate Conte has given up. We’ve scoured search engines for the exact quote and have come up empty. 

The quote, which would have been newsworthy, does not appear in any credible international press reporting. It is made up. – Vincent Ng’ethe


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