TORONTO -- Typically, on April 1, the internet is abuzz with tales of tomfoolery and hoax stories aimed at the gullible.

But this year, social media has been flooded with calls to cancel the annual prank holiday.


As the world grapples with a coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 883,225 people and killed more than 44,156 in at least 180 countries worldwide, people thinking about hoax humour and silly gags are politely being asked to take a backseat.

Tech giant Google, known for pulling elaborate pranks on April 1, announced it was taking "the year off from that tradition out of respect for all those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic."

In some countries, making an April Fools' Day joke related to coronavirus is actually illegal this year.

According to a local media report, police in Thailand anyone who posts or shares false information about COVID-19 on April 1 will be arrested and charged with violating the Computer Crime Act.

Convictions could carry a maximum prison term of five years and/or result in a fine of more than 100,000 baht, or $US3,028.

In a bid to stop the spread of virus-related rumours, India's home minister said the government is ready to crack down and take legal action against anyone sharing misinformation or fake messages about the coronavirus outbreak.

Similarly, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen posted a timely reminder on Facebook that anyone sharing false information about the coronavirus could face three years behind bars and hefty fines.


It's unclear if South Korean K-pop star Kim Jae-joong, 34, will face any legal action after making a post on his Instagram page that claimed he was being hospitalized after contracting COVID-19.

The original post, which was shared with the singer's 1.9 million Instagram followers, was later deleted, with Jae-joong admitting his comments crossed the line.

Police in South Korea are cracking down on anyone who produces or shares false information regarding the coronavirus, where obstruction of official duties and defamation is punishable by law.