UPDATE: As of 15 March, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in SA is 51. This article will be updated with the latest ‘fake articles’ and other hoaxes come to light. News24’s special coronavirus news hub has all the latest, confirmed news about the pandemic. Find it here or download our new News24 app for Android and iOS.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, so does misinformation, fear, fake cures, fake news and malicious hoaxes.
1. Schools aren’t closing
A fake memo from the Basic Education Department has been doing the rounds on social media, claiming that all schools will be shutdown from Monday, 16 March.
The memo claims schools will be closed for four weeks due to the virus, which it goes on to say will ‘increase by 45%’.
The Department of Basic Education has distanced itself from this ‘fake circular’.
2. Fake news update: false alerts about Potchefstroom, Fourways, Cape
Two fake ‘News24’ articles are being circulated on social media. The first claimed there was a second confirmed case of the coronavirus in Mooi Rivier, Potchefstroom.
Members of the public informed News24 about the message and wanted to establish the article’s veracity.
A screengrab displays a headline that claims: “SA’s second positive case of the Convid-19 confirmed in Mooi River, Potchefstroom (sic)”.
News24’s logo and one of its journalist’s names were used to pass it off as legitimate.
However, instead of Covid-19, the name of the disease was incorrectly reflected in the headline as “Convid-19”.
The body of the article reflected in the screengrab also referred to a “first case” and it appeared that the person who altered the headline used a previous News24 article about the first case in KwaZulu-Natal. Rest assured, this story is fake.
Please do not share this false message and alert anyone who sends it to you.
A second fake ‘News24’ article screenshot has started doing the rounds claiming that two Dainfern College students in Fourways, Johannesburg have tested positive. In the fake photo-shopped screengrab, students and families are advised to ‘stay in self-quarantine for 14 days’.
This is fake.
The screenshot was taken off a News24 article about a Sandton school that was closed after the teacher was quarantined. However, ‘Sandton’ was edited out and replaced by Fourways. The body of the article was edited out and fake wording inserted.
3. The garlic myth
Kate Wilkinson, deputy chief editor at Africa Check, told News24 there were several misconceptions about Covid-19 and potential cures.
“We’ve seen everything – if you can think of a plant or a medicine, there is probably a message online saying it can cure or prevent Covid-19. Lately, we debunked a message saying garlic taken in large quantities can help prevent the virus or cure it. There is no evidence that this is true.”
4. Don’t drink bleach
According to Wilkinson, there have also been a number of “scary messages” about drinking or using bleach products to combat the virus.
“This is not going to help. In fact, consuming bleach products can be incredibly harmful and make you very sick and could in some cases, even lead to death.”
5. Dettol claims not proven
On its website, Africa Check also debunked a claim that Dettol products were effective against Covid-19. While Dettol products have shown to be effective against certain strains of coronavirus, the 2019 ‘novel’ coronavirus has not yet been tested against Dettol products.
6. Mosquitoes can’t transmit the disease
The new coronavirus cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites. To date, there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
7. No cure as yet
While Africa Check has seen a lot of false information about vaccines and cures for Covid-19, none of these exist.
“Earlier this year, we saw a news article that went viral and got a lot of traction about a ‘vaccine’ that had supposedly been developed and tested at a university in Ghana, but that turned out to be a completely false story.”
Wilkinson had the following advice: “If you see any information about cures or vaccines, first check the World Health Organization’s website where they have a section dedicated to SARS-CoV-2 with all the latest information.
“They also have a great section where they debunk false information and hoaxes.”
8. Goods manufactured in China cannot transmit the virus
Even though the new coronavirus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (depending on the type of surface), it is very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after it has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures. If you think a surface may be contaminated, use a disinfectant to clean it. After touching it, use an alcohol-based rub to clean your hands or wash them with soap and water.
9. Can pets at home spread the virus?
At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria, such as E.coli and Salmonella, that can pass between pets and humans.
For more on debunking fake news and hoaxes, visit the WHO myth-busting site.
– Compiled by Paul Herman, Kate Henry
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