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A viral post claiming an elderly couple died from the COVID-19 virus but that their deaths were not recorded in the national count has been debunked.

On Sunday evening, a man who identified himself as a relative of the couple posted the following text on his Facebook profile: “My aunt and her husband has passed on both from / identified covid19. Their death was not registered/ counted as covid19 victims.”

The post was shared over 300 times on Facebook by yesterday morning and was also circulated widely on WhatsApp.

Guardian Media spoke to a relative of the couple, who said the 75-year-old man and 73-year-old woman died within six weeks of each other.

But the relative said the man died in his sleep on July 4 after suffering a heart attack and not from the COVID-19 virus, as claimed in the now-viral post.

The relative said almost six weeks later on August 14, the woman died. However, she was confirmed as having the virus at the time of her death. The Ministry of Health issued a release that same day, telling the population a ninth person had died from the virus. The ministry’s release identified the victim only as an elderly female with pre-existing medical conditions.

The relative said she did not believe the post was made with malicious intent and said the other relative may have been confused about the timeline and circumstances surrounding the deaths. Another close relative of the couple said while the family did not want confusion about the causes of their deaths, the family still needs time to grieve privately.

He said the elderly woman did not show any symptoms of the virus before being admitted to the hospital, adding the woman suffered from diabetes.

Speaking at the ministry’s media briefing yesterday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh also debunked rumours that citizens have been dying while awaiting COVID-19 test results.

“Unfortunately, a narrative is being put out there that persons are dying while waiting for COVID-19 tests and the CMO made the point that doctors don’t treat tests, if a patient presents, the patient gets all their treatment based on their symptoms,” Deyalsingh said.

Also speaking at the press conference, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds added that doctors would not deny treatment to patients while they are awaiting their test results. Hinds said the only thing the positive results determine are where and when a patient will be admitted to a facility.