Coronavirus: factual false stories in Africa


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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa surpassed the one million mark this week, we looked at some of the widely shared fake news about the pandemic on the continent.

Claim: President of Ghana approved conspiracy theory video

Verdict: false

A voice recording endorsing various bogus conspiracies on the coronavirus pandemic has been attributed to the President of Ghana. We do not know who is speaking. It’s a West African accent, but it’s definitely not President Nana Akufo-Addo.

Ghana’s information minister confirmed that the voice was not that of the president and said the claim was “patently false”.

The post makes various unsubstantiated claims about the origins of the virus, including the widely shared false notion that the pandemic was a planned event, a so-called “plandemic.”

It also contains false claims about mandatory vaccinations and Bill Gates’ involvement in handling events.

We have already written in detail about these rumors of mandatory vaccines and the “plandemic” conspiracy theory.

Different versions of the clip have been shown in Europe, North America and Africa.

One, posted on a Nigerian YouTube channel, had more than 400,000 views.

Man who runs the channel says he changed the title of the video to “Africa Leader… Expose Bill Gates Deadly Vaccine For Africa” after people in the comments said he had appointed Ghanaian president inaccurately.

However, the photograph of Nana Akufo-Addo is still visible.

Claim: drinking alcohol can ward off coronavirus

Verdict: This false claim was intended as satire, but was widely shared in Africa.

A satirical video of a man’s reaction to the reimposition of a South African alcohol ban on a TV news channel has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook and is also circulating on WhatsApp.

The video was edited to replace a senior representative of the Alcohol Dealers Association of South Africa (who was interviewed) with a comedian.

Comedian Thandokwakhe Mseleku posted the video of his television appearance on Instagram and YouTube.

In the video, he says, “The disinfectant contains 70% alcohol, so if you drink alcohol, it’s like disinfecting your home. ”

Judging by some of the comments on the video, people clearly thought it was real.

The actor then described his videos as “parody”. We asked Thandokwakhe Mseleku for a comment.

Drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizer is extremely dangerous and has resulted in death. It certainly doesn’t protect you from the coronavirus.

Claim: Eating Highly Alkaline Foods May Kill the Virus

Verdict: false.

A deceptive poster purporting to offer advice inside isolation hospitals on what to do to protect someone from coronavirus has circulated on social media in Africa.

He claims that the “acidity” of the virus can be removed by consuming highly alkaline foods and lists a variety of fruits with their apparent pH.

The pH scale goes from zero (very strong acids) to 14 (more alkaline). A pH of 7 is neutral.

Some of the values ​​in the shared poster are very far from this scale: the avocado register 15.6 and watercress 22.7. It is simply incorrect.

But would alkaline foods kill the virus?

Different parts of the body have different natural pHs which are naturally maintained in balance and cannot be changed through diet. For example, your blood is very slightly alkaline, your stomach is acidic.

Thus, the consumption of certain foods would not have an effect on the pH level inside the cells.

“Since it would be impossible to raise the pH of your cells, then this is a bit of a pointless argument to determine whether a high pH would inhibit the virus,” says Connor Bamford, a virologist at Queen’s University in Belfast.

According to Lee Mwiti, editor of Africa Check, the spread of disinformation on WhatsApp is a particular challenge for fact checkers.

The messaging app is extremely popular on the African continent, but as a closed platform, it is difficult to measure the spread of lies and debunk them. He says Africa Check’s work with “tiplines” and podcasts means they are “quite convinced that this is a strong source of misinformation.”

Claim: Coronavirus vaccine trial in Africa leads to deaths of two children

Verdict: false.

When two French doctors controversially suggested on French television in April that early vaccine trials should be conducted in Africa, their comments sparked an uproar, including among some in the African diaspora.

A London-based vlogger responded to comments from French doctors by falsely claiming that vaccine trials were already underway in Guinea, and made another false accusation that two children had died as a result.

The video was illustrated with what was claimed to be a local report showing unrest in the streets and interviews with sick children.

In fact, the report was from March 2019, before the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and the incident was not related to a vaccine.

The Guinean Ministry of Health issued a statement at the time explaining that some people had experienced side effects after receiving anti-parasitic drug treatment.

According to officials interviewed in the report itself and in local articles, no deaths have been reported as a result of the treatment.

The claims in the video first surfaced in May and were debunked at the time, but they continued to circulate on Facebook and shut down WhatsApp groups, and have been viewed approximately 25,000 times on YouTube.

  • Coronavirus vaccine trials in Africa: what you need to know

Local fact-checkers are working hard to debunk these and other fake stories circulating online.

Africa Check’s Lee Mwiti says the most shared and enduring lies are those that have drawn on anxieties, vulnerabilities and “people’s lack of control in a time of unprecedented disruption.”

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