All The Fake Information On The Internet About Coronavirus, Debunked
No, factories aren't hoarding supplies to send to China and Vladimir Putin isn't releasing lions into the streets to enforce lockdown
Right now Australia — and the world — is living through an unprecedented event.
As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to impact our health, our economy and our freedom of movement people are grasping for information, but with the internet being the internet not all of that information is helpful — or even accurate.
Junkee will be debunking some of the most common misconceptions right here, and updating the story as more misinformation spreads.
Update: 27 March 2020
Aussie Factories Are Hoarding Supplies To Send To China
On the 19th of March, a truck driver by the name of Kevin Goldsworthy posted his recent “experience” on Facebook, which went viral.
In the post, Kevin claimed that while picking up exports and imports around Melbourne, he uncovered a small factory near Footscray/Yarraville. When he arrived, Kevin allegedly saw “the hole (sic) factory full with our food!!”
“It’s TRUE. The hole (sic) joint was full of repacked boxes of baby formula, toilet paper, pallets of hand sanitiser, tissues, feminine hygiene products and that’s just a start,” the post continued.
“When I asked the Asian guy, he told me they have been packing two shipping containers full everyday and sending it all back to China!!,” Kevin recounted in his post.
The post was liked 14,000 times and shared over 94,000 times, however, just three days later, Victoria Police announced that the viral post was, as expected, false.
“We are aware of a social media post being shared claiming a freight company was stockpiling food and sanitary items in a Footscray factory for overseas export,” the Victoria Police wrote in their own Facebook post. “Police have spoken to the company and found these claims to be false.”
So, yeah. It’s probably best that you don’t believe every post you read from truck drivers who swear they have “first hand news straight from myself to u!!”
Only Old People Can Get Coronavirus
As self-isolation and lockdowns become the norm across the globe, young adults seem to think they’re invincible to COVID-19 and continue to ignore restrictions.
Between instances of large groups drinking together on the beach in the UK to teens playing ping pong in the (what should be) deserted streets Italy, young people seem unfazed by the impacts of coronavirus.
While it is true that older people are most at risk of serious illness at the hands of COVID-19, it isn’t a disease exclusively for the elderly. Just last week, an 18-year-old with an underlying health condition died after contracting the virus.
My 26 year old cousin died Sunday from Corona. The myths that young people and Black people “can’t get corona” are fatal. https://t.co/wF83yv4fqV
— New Keyshia! (@Danez_Smif) March 24, 2020
The fact is literally everyone is susceptible to the the virus, as we’ve seen in NSW with both a one and two year old being diagnosed yesterday.
What differs is the rate of fatality for those who are young and healthy to those who are older or have pre-existing conditions. A recent study showed that less than 5% of under-50s are hospitalised from coronavirus symptoms compared to 24% of the 70-year-old age frame.
For those over the age of 80 with coronavirus, 71% required critical care for treatment compared to just 5% of those under 40.
But just because the virus can be more serious for older people isn’t an excuse for young people to carelessly roam around during lockdown. While young adults are likely to survive a case of COVID-19, those who are sick and old don’t have the same luxury, so do your part and just stay home.
Russia Released Lions Onto The Streets To Keep People Inside
Look, across the world governments have been trying desperately to keep their citizens inside. One way they have NOT been doing that is by releasing lions to eat anyone who ignores quarantine.
That’s the rumour that went around about Russia this week, with a photo of a lion on a suburban street going viral on social media.
People claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin released 800 big cats to stop people from going outside during the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian president Vladimir Putin released 800 lions and tigers across Russia to devour anyone who comes out. Stay home or die hard. GOAT😅😅😅😂😂 pic.twitter.com/9LXz6DLIf9
— Kelvin M. Ashong (@Mawunya_) March 22, 2020
While it says a lot that so many people were convinced this was plausible, it isn’t true.
The photo in question was actually taken in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016. The lion’s name is actually Columbus, and he’s a resident of a nearby lion park.
Columbus has starred in a number of films and advertisements and was bought in by a production crew for some more filming on a closed off street.
Big cats are having a bit of a moment right now — the myth went viral right around the time that Netflix’s Tiger King started blowing people’s minds.
Update: 20 March 2020
Nurofen Will Make Coronavirus Worse
Last week people panicked after being told the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen — sold in Australia as Nurofen — could potentially worsen the effects of COVID-19.
The rumour spread after a tweet from France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran, who tweeted (in French) that ibuprofen “could be a factor in worsening the infection”.
⚠️ #COVIDー19 | La prise d'anti-inflammatoires (ibuprofène, cortisone, …) pourrait être un facteur d'aggravation de l’infection. En cas de fièvre, prenez du paracétamol.
Si vous êtes déjà sous anti-inflammatoires ou en cas de doute, demandez conseil à votre médecin.
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) March 14, 2020
His warning was based on a hypothesis in a medical journal which has not been confirmed. In fact, there is research that other similar nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may even be able to halt the virus. Again, that research is just as preliminary.
The claim picked up further steam due to a viral Facebook post from a British mother who said her daughter got worse after taking ibuprofen.
While cases like these can cause fear, it’s important to remember that one anecdote is not reliable as data.
Since ibuprofen can be used to reduce fevers there are most likely many coronavirus patients currently taking the drug to manage their symptoms. Officially, the World Health Organisation says it is not aware of negative effects.
A: Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of of ibuprofen. pic.twitter.com/n39DFt2amF
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 18, 2020
As always, if you’re thinking of changing any medication you are currently on it’s best to consult a doctor and not the internet.
Coronavirus Can Live On Surfaces For Nine Days
A number of infographics are circling online which claim that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to nine days.
Citing the Journal of Hospital Infection, one particular image draws information from a peer-reviewed study on a number of different past coronaviruses. This study, from January 2020, tests how long coronaviruses like SARS, MERS and HCoV can survive on plastic, glass, steel, ceramic, paper and wood.
View this post on Instagram
There are two studies I could have used for this. One looked at previous coronaviruses (SARS, MERS-CoV, and HCoV) and was peer reviewed, the other one looked at this coronavirus specifically (COVID-19) but it was only published a week ago and hasn’t been peer reviewed. That second study found much shorter times (it found that the virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours) but I wanted to steer on the side of caution. But also, now you have all the information so you can decide for yourself!
As Mona Chalabi — the illustrator of this particular image — points out, this study doesn’t look at COVID-19 specifically. But as misinformation and fear spreads online, people often don’t read the fine print or relay the attached information.
However, the title of the graphic being “How long the coronavirus can survive on different surfaces” is misleading. Saying “the” coronavirus implies that the information used for the graphic refers to COVID-19 coronavirus specifically, instead of coronaviruses in general.
And the study used for the graphic had actually found that each coronavirus had a different staying power on each surface. While SARS-CoV was reported to last anywhere between six to nine days on plastic surfaces, MERS-CoV only lingered for 48 hours.
This shows that not all coronaviruses react the same way and therefore isn’t a good guide to follow for COVID-19. A more recent COVID-19 coronavirus study revealed that the actual times that COVID-19 survived on surfaces was a lot shorter.
While not peer-reviewed, the study showed that COVID-19 was detectable on steel and plastic for up to three days, copper for four hours, and cardboard for one day.
As each coronavirus has varying staying powers, it’s recommended that you stay clean as a preventative measure. Even though each coronavirus behaves differently, alcohol based disinfectants can help deactivate them all.
You’re More Vulnerable If You Have A Certain Blood Type
People with blood type A were sent into a frenzy this week after reports they may be more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Indeed, a preliminary study from Wuhan found people with type A blood had a higher rate of infection and seemed to develop more severe symptoms.
However, that was a preliminary study which was done on a very small sample size of only 2,173 patients — so far more than 200,000 people have contracted the disease worldwide. It is also yet to be peer reviewed, so right now there are still question marks.
“If you are type A, there is no need to panic. It does not mean you will be infected 100 percent,” researcher Gao Ying Dai told the South China Morning Post.
No matter what your blood type is, the best way to defend yourself is to practice social distancing and wash your hands.
Drinking Water Every 15 Minutes Cures Coronavirus
There has been a text post circulating online claiming to have cures to COVID-19. The post claims that the information comes from “Stanford University” to add in a little extra believability.
Apparently “Taiwan experts” say that if you can take a deep breath and hold it for more than 10 seconds without pain, then you don’t have coronavirus. The post explains that no discomfort when holding your breath means that you don’t have fibrosis — an alleged sign of coronavirus-related lung infection.
Along with holding your breath, Stanford University apparently believes that drinking water every 15 minutes will kill off the virus. The posts along with similar ones allege that drinking liquids will wash the virus out of your mouth and into your stomach where the acids will kill all of the virus. But if you don’t drink water, the virus “can enter your windpipe and then the lungs.”
At the end of the post are a bunch of wild tips like “[the virus] will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27°C” as the virus “hates the sun.”
Misinformation about COVID-19 symptoms and treatment falsely attributed to Stanford is circulating on social media and in email forwards. It is not from Stanford. Official information from Stanford is available at https://t.co/LlNXeyuejP.
— Stanford University (@Stanford) March 13, 2020
Now it doesn’t take a genius to dispel this very obviously fake post. First, Stanford University didn’t say any of this — something the Health Care department confirmed with Mother Jones. If you want Stanford University’s actual stance on COVID-19, you can find it on their website.
Doctor’s at Antelope Valley Hospital in LA also discredited a lot of the facts in the post itself. Fibrosis is literally a late scarring process, so while coronavirus can cause pneumonia or other lung-related issues, fibrosis isn’t one of them.
Multiple experts report that no amounts of warm water will boost your immune response to eliminate the virus. While they might calm you, they definitely don’t kill the virus. Plus claims that COVID-19 can’t exist in temperatures beyond 27°C is bonkers considering it can function in the human body at 37.5ºC.
So, while you should stay hydrated, water’s definitely not the cure to coronavirus.
We’re Going To Run Out Of Food
Looking at the stacked trolleys of shoppers who have been cleaning out our shopping aisles, you’d think we’re in danger of running out of food. We’re not.
More than 90 per cent of the fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk and eggs sold in supermarkets are produced here in Australia.
The same goes for toilet paper — the majority is produced here in South Australia.
— yanita calmdown (@yanitacalmdown) March 15, 2020
Today Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he understood people were anxious, but those hoarding items were giving the rest of Australia a bad name.
“There are not supply issues … and there is no need to hoard them. That is simply not necessary,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today.
“I understand they’re anxious, but for the next six months at least … we do need to moderate our behaviour.”
Busloads Of People Are Raiding Small Towns To Resell Items
A number of posts are circulating on Facebook telling a similar story of busloads of people raiding small towns for groceries. The story claims that people travel from town to town and “leave practically nothing” all to resell the items in their own small businesses at an inflated price.
People in small towns are obviously worried and mad that they’re being inconvenienced by people who are just “in the trade of making profit”. However there is no proof that this is even happening.
There has been no solid proof of these “buses” and “vans”, despite so many anecdotal stories claiming it’s happening. A Christian’s Bus Ballarat spokesperson spoke to The Courier and explained that it would be “the worst advertising” for any bus company to allow this to happen.
Plus, a number of small town IGA’s across Melbourne have also said they’ve not experienced this serial grocery hoarding at their stores.
While some small-town stores, like the M&A Butchery in Wilberforce, have seen an influx of customers in recent days, it’s likely not a case of hoarding for profit. The increase in customers is likely a result of big city store customers facing empty supermarket shelves too.
The family run M&A Butchery told the Sydney Morning Herald that the new customers visiting the store are genuine buyers. “They’re coming from everywhere because they’re telling me hardly anyone’s got meat,” Dean Diasinos said.
So, no. There’s no need to stress out about “resellers” buying up all of your towns groceries.