As the number of people around the world infected by the Covid-19 pandemic grows, so does the number of fakes concerning this deadly virus. Every day hundreds of alleged “cures” for the coronavirus are published on social media, new posts claiming to tell “the whole truth” about the virus appear regularly as do panicky posts in parents’ chat rooms on Facebook, Viber or Whatsapp. StopFake has collected some of the fakes that are most popular amongst Ukrainians.
Cities disinfected from helicopters
Over the past week social media has been rife with stories claiming that additional disinfection measures are about to be launched in Ukrainian cities. Residents are advised not go outside between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am, and to close all windows and balconies. Citing an anonymous source in the military, these stories claim that military helicopters will fly over cities and sprinkle disinfectant over streets, buildings, parks, cars, etc. No date is given for the alleged mass disinfection, which should alert all of us immediately that this is a dubious piece of information.
Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) has called these claims fake and asks that Ukrainians not succumb to panicky stories but rather turn to official sites with fact checked information.
People generally reacted to this absurd fake with humor, laughing that from now on, people’s temperature will be checked by lasers beamed from helicopters, another announced that toilet paper will be tossed to everyone from helicopters, two rolls per person. Someone else pointed out that a man who forgot to close his window and was dusted with the disinfectant and miraculously survived.
Children on the street? Parents to prison!
Children in particular are meant to stay home during this coronavirus quarantine and perhaps that is why there are so many fakes about kids and Covid-19 in parental chat rooms. One such fake warns that parents, whose children are frolicking on the streets, are subject to huge fines or even worse, prison terms of up to five years.
Another fake claims that local authorities conduct “street children raids” to get kids off playgrounds and parks. In fact such actions are routinely carried out by Ukrainian authorities, however they have nothing to do with the coronavirus and are intended to rescue children from dangerous families. In an official statement Ukraine’s National Police announced that such claims are fakes intended to spread panic and destabilize an already difficult situation even further.
Quarantine in schools will last until the end of May; exams cancelled.
Another fake circulated in parents’ groups on social media is about an alleged Cabinet of Minister order extending the quarantine in schools until the end of May with the school year continuing through the end of July. Parents are briskly forwarding this bit of information to one another, without realizing that it is a complete fake. According to a Cabinet of Ministers order, the current school quarantine is effective until April 3.
Ukraine’s Education Ministry has called this claim completely untrue, and points out that if the dates of the quarantine were to be changed, that would be done officially through a Ministry decision and it would be publicized accordingly, on the Ministry’s official web site and in reputable media.
Curing Coronavirus in 4 days with the help of salt
You have 4 days to cure yourself of the coronavirus infection –headlines like this have flooded both regular media and social media. These fakes present so-called scientific data claims – if you are infected with the virus, you can fight the infection with saline solution before it becomes imbedded in your respiratory system. “Before the infection gets into your lungs, it stays in the throat for four days. Gargle with salt and keep it from getting into your lungs. Share this and let people know because you can save a life,” advises Natalia.
And you can determine if you are sick with the coronavirus with the help of an online test.
A similar popular fake currently making the rounds on the web this week is nasal irrigation with saline.
The World Health Organization has an entire page devoted to covid-19 mythbusting, including nasal irrigation, eating garlic and taking hot baths.
According to the WHO “there is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus…. And it has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.”
Smoking protects from Covid-19
If nasal irrigation with saline is a harmless fake, the claim that smokers cannot be infected with coronavirus is one of the most dangerous fakes making the rounds that can compel non-smokers to reach for a deadly cigarette. The author of this fake claim is Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov, who is a consultant to the Russian propagandist Channel One. In his Instagram account Nevzorov calls Covid-9 the Wuhan virus and claims that it cannot touch smokers because the virus cannot survive the smell of tobacco. Inhaling a skinny little cigarette that looks like a rollup Nevzorov claims that the World Health Organization was shocked to discover that most of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in China were non-smokers, among smokers fatalities were less than 1%. “This is not a conspiracy, no one is trying to hide these facts” Nevzorov assures us using the hashtag #smokingkillscoronavirus.
Nevzorov’s smoking keeps coronavirus away claim was immediately picked up and disseminated by Russian media who helped to buttress the fake by making up some mythical research that had supposedly proven the claim.
In fact, smoker’s lungs already weakened by smoking tobacco are more susceptive to respiratory illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, the risk of infection among smokers is 14% higher than among non-smokers