Hundreds of thousands of people around the world often watch online videos and social media posts containing false and misleading information about the coronavirus pandemic.
We checked out some of the most shared facts this week.
“False” death figures?
First, a video starring right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones calling the US coronavirus data “false.” It is used, he suggests, to keep the country locked out and to prevent President Trump from standing for re-election.
He claims that the Covid-19 death figures are false, but in doing so he misinterprets the way the information is recorded.
Jones says anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 at the time of death – whether it’s “cancer,” “parachuting,” or “shark attacks – is recorded as a death from a coronavirus.
In the United States, Covid-19 is only listed on the death certificate if the illness played a role in the death of that person, so deaths from mishap such as shark attacks and skydiving would certainly not be included.
Experts say that, if anything, the deaths of Covid-19 have been underreported, due to a lack of community testing and home deaths that are not counted.
Calculating death rates is certainly not an exact science and is subject to interpretation. We have written a lot about how these numbers are calculated in the UK:
- Coronavirus: how to understand the death toll
- Why the number of deaths in the UK is an inaccurate science
Jones also says anyone who has ever had a coronavirus infection or the common cold will test positive.
The tests currently widely used in the United States and elsewhere are to find out if you are infected with the new coronavirus that is causing the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 diagnostic tests are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes it),” said Dr. Jeremy Rossman, Honorary Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent. “They don’t detect other coronaviruses or the common cold virus (rhinovirus) or the flu virus. “
These tests do not identify previous infections that you have recovered from – although scientists are working hard to deploy a reliable test for that too.
The video has been shared thousands of times but has not been posted to Alex Jones’ main account or his Infoway Facebook page because the two were banned by Facebook.
The sad story behind a body bag video
A viral video claiming that an elderly woman with coronavirus was placed in a body bag while she was still alive has been found to be misleading.
The video originated in Brazil and has gone viral on WhatsApp and Facebook. Various versions have been shared hundreds of thousands of times, including in large English-language conspiracy groups.
The video shows an elderly patient on top of a sheet of plastic who has trouble breathing. Legend has it that the woman’s family was informed that she was dead.
The truth is less dramatic. Director of Abelardo Santos hospital in northern Brazil told BBC News Brasil that the protective sheet on which she was lying was indeed a body bag, but that it had been used to transfer her to another bed .
“It is common practice in hospitals,” he said, “especially during a pandemic or epidemic, which requires us to adapt.”
Police are investigating who leaked the video and who is responsible for spreading false information related to it.
Unfortunately, since the video was recorded, the woman has died.
Some Portuguese messages on Facebook have a warning message stating that they are misleading. However, we spotted some in English that were not reported by Facebook.
No, this scientist did not say that the United States and China had created a coronavirus
A false quote attributed to a prominent French scientist went viral this week.
The Facebook publication claims that Professor Didier Raoult (infectious disease specialist) said that Covid-19 was created by the United States and China to kill millions of Africans.
We spoke at the Marseille hospital where Professor Raoult works and they confirmed that it was not authentic.
Professor Raoult has become well known for promoting an anti-malarial drug to treat coronavirus.
The original post, which can be traced back to an account in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been shared more than 150,000 times in a number of African countries, including Madagascar and Cameroon.
And there is an intriguing touch to this story. Another bogus story we reported related to the same Instagram account.
It contained a false message attributed to Jeff Bezos – claiming that Bill Gates had a plan to destabilize Africa.
Anger at the way African countries are treated during the pandemic has surfaced online several times. Two French doctors have been accused of racism after suggesting vaccine trials in Africa.
- “An anti-virus tonic” rejected “because it is African”
Forced quarantine does not come to America
Finally, we watched a video that contained false information about the powers introduced into the United States to forcibly evict and quarantine infected individuals from their homes.
In the video, Dr. Rashid Buttar, known for his anti-vaccination views, says that a new bill before the US Congress will give the authorities these powers.
However, that is not true – the bill does nothing like that. This is a request for funds to help contain the spread of the virus and stimulate testing, particularly in areas where health services are poorer.
As part of this process, part of the funds would be used for contact tracing, which means researching people who might have come into contact with someone with coronavirus.
Dr. Buttar suggests that under the bill, authorities would be allowed to enter your home if you have symptoms of coronavirus. This clip had more than three million views on Facebook.
The bill mentions that, if necessary, people could be tested at home, but it makes it clear that federal privacy or confidentiality laws will not be replaced.
Despite Dr. Buttar’s various assertions that parents are being taken away, there is nothing in the proposal to remove people from their homes.
Additional reporting by Marianna Spring, Olga Robinson and BBC News Brasil.
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