Just because a story appears online, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily true. The internet is great, but it can also be used to spread misleading news and content. Protect yourself and your friends from false information about coronavirus.
Throughout of the coronavirus pandemic there has been fake news circulating about the virus. These false accusations have no legitimate scientific evidence supporting their claims. When shared, false information can take on a life of its own and have some serious consequences. It can lead to health scares, false accusations and potentially damaging hoax stories. We urge you not to follow any of the advice from non-legitimates sources, such as conspiracy theory videos or claims, but instead to follow Government guidelines. All Government information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Recently there has been a lot of this kind of false information about coronavirus. It’s not always easy to spot, so use the SHARE checklist to make sure you're not contributing to the spread of harmful content.
- Source: Rely on official sources for medical and safety information. Check the facts about coronavirus on the NHS website and GOV.UK.
- Headline: Headlines don’t always tell the full story. Always read to the end before you share articles about coronavirus.
- Analyse: Analyse the facts. If something sounds unbelievable, it very well might be. Independent fact-checking services are correcting false information about coronavirus every day.
- Retouched: Watch out for misleading pictures and videos in stories about coronavirus. They might be edited, or show an unrelated place or event. Check to see who else is using the photo.
- Error: Look out for mistakes. Typos and other errors might mean the information is false. Official guidance about coronavirus will always have been carefully checked.
People passing themselves off as experts in videos have become crucial to the spread of false claims. Documentary-style films which promote conspiracy theories are increasingly popular, and a marked evolution from the dodgy medical advice being forwarded on WhatsApp at the start of the pandemic, all of which are simply not true. Slick production means videos often look quite credible initially - before promoting totally false claims.
You should only accept information from trusted health bodies and authorities. They have scientific evidence to support their advice, these conspiracy theories do not.
The Government is working with the social media companies to take much swifter action on removing these nonsense claims which are spreading online, and I would urge you to call out such nonsense when it appears online. Below we have used the latest evidence from scientists and medical professionals to debunk some of the most widely spread myths about the virus.
Fake News #1 Claim: 5G has caused the Virus.
Fact: The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by a novel form of a coronavirus and there is no evidence that 5G technology has any effect on people’s health at all. Scientists have made it clear that there is no link between 5G and coronavirus. A connection with the virus is ‘both a physical and biological impossibility'. This is a conspiracy theory that has come about as a result of false information online. Damaging telecoms infrastructure is particularly dangerous and anyone responsible for these criminal acts will face the full force of the law
5G is an information technology that allows for faster mobile internet communication and will allow for new innovative services. After extensive trials OFCOM, measured 5G sites in various towns and cities across the UK, focusing on areas where mobile use is likely to be highest. At every site, emissions were a small fraction of the levels included in international guidelines, as set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). And the maximum measured at any site was 1.5% of those levels. Therefore, 5G is scientifically proven to be safe.
Fake News #2 Claim: If you have COVID and aren’t showing symptoms you won’t transmit the disease.
Fact: Not everyone who has COVID-19 has symptoms and it can take up to 14 days to show symptoms in some cases.
In reality, we don't yet know exactly how many people might be completely asymptomatic (meaning that you don't show symptoms) while carrying the virus, but studies show it could be a high number. That's why it's so important to self-isolate for at least 14 days if you either live with someone who might have the virus or you've been instructed to by a contact tracer, and why keeping a safe distance from others is essential.
Fake News #3 Claim: Face masks don’t work.
Fact: Science in this area has evolved during the outbreak, the body of scientific evidence that has built up shows that the risk of transmission is made lower by wearing a face covering. The more we learn about COVID-19 the clearer it is that face coverings are an absolute vital tool in our fight against the virus. They effectively capture droplets, which is the main way the virus travels from person to person.
According to the British Medical Association, if you don't wear one and have COVID-19, the risk of spreading it to others can be as high as 70%. If you do wear one, the risk drops to 5%. Make sure you wear one in all public indoor spaces and whenever you can't keep a 2m distance from others. It is simple and easy way we can all stop the spread of the virus.
Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.
Fake News #4 Claim: Masks are harmful to your health and can kill you.
Fact: Only an airtight mask could possibly cause any breathing difficulty. That eliminates cloth masks, the preferred personal protective equipment in public. It actually eliminates N95 respirators, too, usually reserved for healthcare professionals. They fit tighter than a cloth mask but still not tight enough on the face to kill. Surgeons wear even more substantial face coverings all day without endangering their health. The average facemask user without pre-existing respiratory illness has nothing to worry about. Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards.
Fake News #5 Claim: We don’t need to worry about a second wave of COVID-19. It’s just the same as the normal winter cold and flu season.
Fact: COVID-19 is not the same as winter cold or flu illness - in many ways it's much worse. Seasonal flu has been around for a long time, so scientists and doctors know a lot about it and how to treat people who have the illness. There’s also a yearly vaccine available for seasonal flu.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is completely new. Scientists and medical professionals are still learning about the virus - what we do understand is that COVID-19 looks to have a higher reproductive number (the number of people infected by one person) than flu and has a higher death rate. A vaccine is most likely to be some months away. That's why we must do all we can to follow the Government’s guidance to stay as safe as possible over the coming months.
Fake News #6 Claim: It only affects older people, so young people don’t have to worry about it.
Fact: Most people who aren't elderly and do not have underlying health conditions will not become critically ill from COVID-19. But the illness still has a higher chance of leading to serious respiratory symptoms than seasonal flu, and we are still learning about some of the other long term effects.
Fake News #7 Claim: Covid-19 death rate is 0.1% of people that catch it.
Fact: This is incorrect, and the death rate is likely to be 5 or 10 times higher than this. However, it should be noted that the relative fatality of coronavirus is greatly affected by exogenous factors such as previous health conditions, age, and other factors such as smoking or obesity.
Fake News #8 Claim: Testing is inaccurate, and testing for covid-19 has false positives of 80%.
Fact: Tests for active coronavirus are not always correct: at present they are understood to produce false negatives in between 2 and 20 per cent of cases. If you are exhibiting symptoms but receive a negative test result, you must continue to self-isolate. Antibody tests are understood to be accurate in all cases where a person has not suffered with coronavirus, presenting a false negative in approximately 16 per cent of cases where someone has had Covid-19. Developers of these tests have been working to maximise accuracy.
Fake News #9 Claim: We should let everyone catch the virus so we become immune, even if it causes some deaths in the short-term.
Fact: If everyone caught the virus without any strategies in place to suppress it, this could lead to an enormous number of deaths, a devastated healthcare system and a breakdown of our economy and society. It would also prevent people from accessing healthcare, emergency services and even prescriptions for normal medical reasons, and minor conditions could prove to be more fatal. The people most likely to suffer would be some of the most vulnerable in our society. We all have a duty to look out for each other and every person’s life is worth protecting.
We all have a part to play to protect the most vulnerable people in society. Everyone’s actions have a direct impact on how fast the virus spreads. Young people can spread it to older and vulnerable members of society without knowing they are infected. Whatever you do, please remember to follow the Government's guidance.
Fake News #10 Claim: Obesity kills more people than Coronavirus.
Fact: This is a misleading statistic and Coronavirus remains the greatest threat to public health.
The post circulating takes Covid deaths at one of their lowest points and compares it to an average of Obesity caused deaths over a full year. However, as noted by fullfact.org, if you work out an average in a similar manner for the months in which we have had Covid-19, the death rate is significantly higher than that of obesity.
Fake News #11 Claim: The Government is using Behavioural Scientists in SAGE to brainwash and manipulate the public to achieve compliance with dangerous policies and laws.
Fact: The purpose of SAGE is to provide scientific advice to the Government. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that this has been used to help save lives, and has been nothing to do with behavioural control, nor would it ever be so. I believe that it particularly important during the coronavirus outbreak that the public are provided with truthful information and guidance. The spread of rumours, lies and falsehoods can put lives in danger. Cross-government work is helping to identify false narratives and provide rebuttals to those claims.
Fake News #12 Claim: COVID-19 is man-made.
Fact: Scientists from across the world have disproved this theory. Research firmly determines that coronavirus is a result of a naturally occurring process and not a product of laboratory engineering. New diseases have emerged throughout human history, and we have seen two other major coronavirus outbreaks in the last two decades: SARS and MERS. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a hoax, it is a global outbreak caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2.
Fake News #13 Claim: The Government will force everyone to take a harmful and potentially lethal vaccine which they are already buying millions of doses of with our money.
Fact The powers granted to the Government under the Coronavirus Act 2020 are made under and subject to the restrictions of the Control of Disease Act 1984. Under the 1984 Act, Ministers have the power to make regulations which prevent danger to public health and prevent the spread of infection, but these regulations do not include mandatory treatment or vaccination.
Across the globe, there are 140 vaccines not yet in human trials, 19 in small-scale safety trials, 11 in expanded safety trials, and 3 in large-scale efficacy trials, including the Oxford vaccine trial. Scientists worldwide are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine within 12 to 18 months.
While severe side effects from vaccinations are rare, as a result of the rigorous testing and review process prior to usage, in the event that these effects occur, the Government has established the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS). This means that, if an individual is severely disabled as a result of a vaccination against certain diseases, they can receive a one-off-tax-free payment of £120,000. While the VDPS is primarily designed to cover adverse reactions for vaccination in the child immunisation programme, the scheme is kept under review at all times with further vaccination programmes included if appropriate. However, safety, effectiveness, and the ability to tolerate the vaccine are top priorities for manufacturers and regulators, and I fully support the system of clinical trials currently in place to minimise the risk of side effects.
Fake News #14 Claim: Bill Gates has a vaccine to the Coronavirus
Fact: This is untrue and deliberately misleading.
A patent application was made for a different coronavirus filed by the Pirbright Institute, which receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but this has no connection to Covid-19. Coronavirus is a large category of viruses that includes the common cold, SARS and the new virus that causes Covid-19.
Know the facts. Share them. Save Lives.