5G, a vaccine & 'white people's virus' — Covid-19 conspiracy theories the government has debunked

17 April 2020 - 13:35
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Fake news has threatened to undermining the fight against Covid-19.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock Fake news has threatened to undermining the fight against Covid-19.

Unprecedented times stimulate conspiracy theories and Covid-19 is no different.

Since the outbreak in December, one prominent theory suggested that the virus was a dangerous biological weapon, designed by human beings in a military lab in Wuhan, China.

Now, over the past few weeks, different conspiracy theories have gained momentum and the government is debunking them one at a time.

Here are five claims about Covid-19 that SA's government has debunked so far.

The virus affects only older people

People of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus. However, older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease are more likely to become severely ill with the virus.

The youngest patient in SA to contract the virus was a two year old from Western Cape, who had travelled to New Zealand.

The SA coronavirus website advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

It's a white people virus

No, absolutely not. Initially, this idea started off as a joke, likely through a France24 report on March 1 about the low infection rate in Africa.

However, speaking at a press briefing on March 12, health minister Zweli Mkhize said fake news and discrimination were far more dangerous than the pandemic itself.

“Coronavirus doesn’t look at your passport, doesn’t look at your nationality, doesn’t look at your circumstances, whether you’re rich or poor, doesn’t care whether you’re within one metre of somebody sneezing, a droplet of infection will hit you.”

5G mobile networks spreads the virus

Despite a lack of evidence and logic, this conspiracy theory has been frequently shared by social media users, including American singer Keri Hilson.

Earlier this month, Mkhize debunked the claim, saying that technology could not be linked to the infection, and that “only facts” would help beat coronavirus.

“We’re dealing with a lot of fake news. The issue is 5G is technology and coronavirus is an organic infection. It’s not something you can link with 5G. We can’t go around scaring people because it is something we can fight and defeat. But we must do this with true information. Facts must fight COVID-19.”

Holding breath for 10 seconds

This so-called self-check test is doing the rounds in social media.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort does not mean you are free from the virus or any other lung disease.

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are a dry cough, tiredness and fever. Some people may develop more severe forms of the disease, such as pneumonia.

Coronavirus vaccines

So far, there is no proven therapy for Covid-19.

At this stage, there is an ongoing therapeutic research and vaccine trial at different stages of progress. There are 50 different candidates of vaccines that are in their early stages.

According to Mkhize, WHO estimated that it may take a minimum of 18 months to have a vaccine that is confirmed. South African institutions are also participating in the global research programme in search of a solution to Covid-19, under the guidance of WHO.