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Here Are Some Of The Coronavirus Hoaxes That Spread In The First Few Weeks

COVID-19 has spawned countless conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and falsehoods.

Last updated on March 2, 2020, at 11:04 a.m. ET

Posted on January 24, 2020, at 6:21 p.m. ET

World cases map
Peter Aldhous / BuzzFeed News / Via github.com

An outbreak of coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, and spread globally has caused nearly 3,000 deaths worldwide.

BuzzFeed News has a running list of falsehoods and unverified information following the outbreak.

Hello. I'm (once again) keeping track of fakes about #covid19 in this thread 👇 See something? My DMs are open, my email is jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com

Scroll down for examples of false and misleading content from when news of coronavirus first broke. The most recent information and debunks are added to the top.

1. No, meth cannot be contaminated with COVID-19 and police will not test it for you for free.

Facebook / Danville, AR Police Department

Two dozen police departments, 10 journalists and radio stations, one Army substance abuse program, and a candidate for local sheriff have spread the false claim on Facebook about meth possibly being contaminated with the novel coronavirus.

2. No, the Pope does not have coronavirus. The hoax comes from a newly registered website and has amassed over 60,000 Facebook engagements.

1. THREAD. There's a fake news story circulating from a website called "MCM News" claiming the Pope has the #coronavirus. The domain was registered in 2016 by a domain squatter in China. The registration was changed three days ago on 26 Feb.

3. A fake Chuck Schumer tweet is being spread across platforms. Schumer did not say, "there must be a check and Balance" on China travel restrictions. One tell-tale sign this is fake are the misspellings and bad grammar in the tweet.

Fake Senator Schumer tweet spotted on q Anon Instagram hashtag.

4. No, Bill Gates did not finance a lab that created COVID-19.

Twitter/JWrightforCA34

Some of the president's supporters have been spreading a false conspiracy theory tying the spread of COVID19 to either Bill Gates or billionaire George Soros. There is no evidence that either man had any influence about how the virus was spread and the theory about coronavirus is a biological weapon doesn't hold water, experts previously told BuzzFeed News.

5. An unreliable website is spreading a false rumor about hair weaves being contaminated with coronavirus, PolitiFact reports.

6. This tweet is false. According to the CDC and a scientist interviewed by BuzzFeed News, hand sanitizer is an effective way to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Twitter

7. No, there is no coronavirus "infestation" at a Florida hospital, PolitiFact reports.

According to PolitiFact's investigation, the website spreading the hoax belongs to Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou, a Pennsylvania man who has fabricated stories, documents, and impersonated reporters.

8. No, air purifiers are not an effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19, scientists told BuzzFeed News.

Screenshots

“Your typical HEPA filter is not going to be able to remove coronavirus from the air,” Erin Sorrell, an assistant professor of microbiology and a member of Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, told BuzzFeed News. “The filter itself is .3 microns and the virus itself is roughly .1 microns.”


The below debunks are from January, when hoaxes about coronavirus first started gaining traction.

1. A website for the Hal Turner Show cited false numbers of how many people have been affected, Lead Stories reports. There are not 112,000 dead from the virus. The number of people quarantined has grown to 50 million, according to the Washington Post.

Hal Turner Show

2. The information in this tweet is false. People are not dying in the streets and the director of the World Health Organization did not say that each country is on its own.

Twitter

3. The origins of the virus are attributed to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan. There is no evidence that connects these images to coronavirus.

Facebook/Daily Mail

4. Yes, there was a coronavirus patent filed in 2015. It was for potential vaccine development and only covered the avian strain of coronavirus, which affects birds.

Twitter

5. Some accounts are fear-mongering with unsourced information.

Twitter

6. A story about children being abandoned in an airport has spread widely on social media thanks to the website 9Gag. However, it has not been confirmed by any credible sources.

9gag / Via 9gag.com

7. No, FEMA did not propose enacting martial law to contain coronovirus, PolitiFact reports. This article was posted by an unreliable website.

8. No, there aren't 23 confirmed cases of coronavirus in major US cities. The account that tweeted this claim calls itself a "parody" and has tweeted unreliable information in the past.

Twitter / Breaking91l

9. A viral tweet misrepresents the CBC News article about two Chinese scientists being expelled from Canada. The article does not mention coronavirus and there is no evidence to support this conspiracy.

Twitter / Jkylebass

There also seems to be inauthentic activity promoting the false narrative.

Twitter

10. No, there hasn't been a case of coronavirus confirmed in Israel.

11. No, this isn't a video of coronavirus protests in Wuhan. The video has been making the rounds since at least July 2019.

Twitter

12. This is not a photo of a newly built coronavirus hospital in Wuhan. It's an image from an online apartment listing. The disinformation was spread by official Chinese channels.

Twitter

13. The sound heard in this viral video is fireworks, not gunshots.

Twitter

14. There is a fake "Canadian Department of Health" message spreading on WhatsApp. The text contains multiple spelling errors and does not match Canada's official release on coronavirus. The relevant government agency is also called Health Canada.

WhatsApp

15. Another WhatsApp message falsely claims to show a list of Toronto schools affected by coronavirus. This list is not contained in the official City of Toronto release about coronavirus.

WhatsApp

16. An Australian member of Parliament has had to debunk a fake press release making the rounds online.

Facebook

17. A fake image of the Ryerson University website spread online, falsely claiming there was a virus outbreak. "There are no cases of coronavirus at Ryerson University," a university spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Screenshot

18. Another Canadian school, McMaster University, also put out a press release about a fake coronavirus report. "McMaster has confirmed that this sign was false, and there is no cause for concern," the release said.

McMaster University

19. There have been many false miracle cure claims. Vitamin C will not cure or prevent a coronavirus infection, as posts and videos on Facebook falsely claim.

Facebook

20. Cannabis will not help prevent or cure coronavirus.

Twitter / @peterjonathanna

21. The government of India has falsely advised that homeopathy can help prevent and manage coronavirus symptoms. Natural medicines have not been proven to have any effect on the disease.

Facebook

22. Air purifiers will also not help with coronavirus.

Facebook

23. A fake message telling people to stay away from certain foods has been copy and pasted across Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Reddit. The Australian communications minister has had to refute the falsehood.

Facebook

24. There is a fake NBC News article about coronavirus making rounds on Facebook.

‼️PSA: This is NOT an article on our website and there is NOT a case of the coronavirus in Fargo. DO NOT click on this link and DO NOT share it if you come across if on Facebook!

25. A viral TikTok video of a doctor who pretends to contract coronavirus is fake, the Daily Dot reports.

Twitter

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.

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