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Coronavirus: 10 fake news you should ignore

Since its outbreak in December 2019, coronavirus has affected over 300,000 people in over 180 countries across the globe. The virus has also caused the death of over 11,000 as at Monday March 23.

About 40 of these infections have been confirmed in Nigeria by Tuesday morning and the country has also recorded one death. To stem the spread, Nigeria has placed a travel ban on 15 high-risk Covid-19 countries and also shut all its borders. Several state governors have given orders forbidding gatherings of more than 50 persons, including in religious houses, night-clubs, and schools.

These measures as well as the uncertainty the novel virus brought with it has increased the level at which information is being disseminated and shared across platforms.

Some of the information shared on platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook and other social media platforms are untrue and at best myths. Consequently, this information poses danger to recipients especially those who acted on them immediately.

In this report, PREMIUM TIMES looks at some major fake news and myths that have been debunked since the country recorded its first case of the disease.

Malaria vs COVID-19:

The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, condemned Nigerian newspapers for ‘over-reporting’ of Coronavirus rather than other illnesses killing Nigerians.

He claimed that malaria kills 822 people on a daily basis and this made headlines in major Nigerian newspapers. The tweet, in less than 24 hours, gathered over 2,400 likes and 716 retweets.

A fact check later debunked Mr Shehu’s claim. The World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows figure on malaria fatality that is three times lower than that put forward by the presidential spokesperson.

Findings reveal that only “260 deaths are recorded daily due to malaria.”

Saline Solution:

A viral Facebook post claimed a Saline Solution of warm water and salt or vinegar is a remedy to Coronavirus, a claim that has not been corroborated by any health institution.

However, a fact check debunked this. NHS recommends gargling with warm saline water for adults suffering from sore throats but not a solution to cure COVID-19.

Also, the WHO in its Q&A about coronavirus on twitter debunked a similar question of whether gargling mouthwash can protect one from COVID-19.

The organisation says there is currently “no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.” Clinical trials are, however, ongoing to find a solution to the disease. The explanation is rather that gargling with warm water could help kill the virus at the early stages before it reaches the lungs.

Zimbabwe video

A video surfaced online (Twitter), on Saturday, showing police officers beating Christians who visited a church in Zimbabwe generated a lot of retweets.

The video was viewed by over 80,000 Twitter users, gathered over 2,500 retweets and liked by over 3,000 persons with many hostile comments capable of inciting the public against security operatives.

Meanwhile, a check later showed that the video was old footage from an event in November 2019, in Zimbabwe against the political opposition.

The person who attributed the video to Coronavirus, Segun Awosanya (Sega Link), must have read his comment section because he subsequently released a rejoinder but this came after the video had got to nearly 100,000 persons.

No Coronavirus in Nigeria?

A viral picture went online suggesting that Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, said that there is no coronavirus in Nigeria and that the minister of health lied.

Mr Obasanjo, however, denied the claim. His spokesperson, Kehinde Akinyemi, said: “any statement that is attributed to Baba but did not include when and where he made it should be disregarded. Baba didn’t say it and couldn’t have said it.”

Interestingly, the image bears a Punch logo but was never reported. Indeed, all signs point to it being a doctored image.

On driver that took Nigerian first case to Ogun

After the confirmation of the first case in Nigeria, a viral screenshot attributed to a Facebook page – AIT Nigeria News, alerted the public that the driver who drove the Italian man to Ogun demanded N100 million or he he would spread the virus.

A Google reverse image used for fact check later showed that the image conveyed in the screenshot is that of an article from BuzzFeedNews, published in 2018 with the headline: “Inside The Country Where You Can Buy A Black Man For $400.”

However, the alleged driver has debunked the claims in a video. He said he had been in Benin and had not been to Lagos in two years.

AIT also issued a circular to distance itself from the viral message which featured the platform’s logo.

Cocaine cures coronavirus?

A verified Twitter account owned by a Nigerian music and entertainment developer with more than 190,000 followers identified as Bizzle Osikoya, tweeted a doctored image from a television breaking news segment, proposing that cocaine can cure coronavirus.

A fact check, however, debunked this as the French Government disclaimed cocaine as cure to COVID-19.

It says; “Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug and using it can seriously harm people’s health and create undesirable effects.”

200 cases in Ghana?

A Twitter user with over 13,000 followers on the micro-blogging platform claimed Ghana has up to 200 cases of Coronavirus.

He later deleted the tweet. As against this claim, Ghana on Sunday closed all its borders to human traffic to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after the country confirmed its first death from the disease.

Ghana’s Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, disclosed that travellers from high-risk countries with more than 200 cases of the Covid-19 would not be allowed into the country.

In all, only 21 cases have been confirmed in the country as at the time of filing this report.

Sex kills coronavirus?

A viral WhatsApp message/image claims constant sex kills coronavirus. The image featured CNN’s, Wolf Blitzer.

Checks, however, showed that it was doctored. A reverse image search revealed the same picture was used earlier with the caption “Alcohol kills coronavirus”. This is not also the original caption by CNN.

Sex is an activity that has to do body contact. This is the first red flag. Coitus or sex involves close contact, close contact means interaction with body fluids, a sure way of contacting coronavirus, a fact check reveals.

Putin vs Lions

Social media went agog on Sunday as some reports claimed that Vladimir Putin ordered a release of around 500 lions on the streets of Russia to ensure that people remain inside their houses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pictures and Videos of lions on a street were being circulated and a tweet also claimed that “Vladimir Putin has given Russians two options. You stay at home for 2 weeks or you go to jail for 5 years. No middle ground.”

Meanwhile, a fact check shows that it is false. The picture of a lion on the street is from the year 2016 in South Africa.

If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, then you don’t have the virus?

This long message began circulating early on in the crisis and the claims have been shared more than 30,000 times on Facebook in over a dozen countries, including India, Nigeria and the USA.

It goes saying “If this can be done without coughing, without difficulty this shows that there is no fibrosis in the lungs, indicating the absence of infection. It is recommended to do this control every morning to help detect infection.”

However, a fact check proved this wrong. The check proved that “Fibrosis is not a feature of coronavirus and you cannot tell… if you’ve got COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) you won’t be able to hold your breath for 10 seconds anyway. And some people who have , the only symptom they’ve got is a fever and not a cough.”


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