We at Hacked Off are committed to limiting the dissemination of potentially life-threatening misinformation in any way we can.
Every week we are compiling a weekly round-up of inaccurate or misleading reports.
Our goal is to keep you as informed as possible at this difficult time.
Below are this week’s examples of misreporting and disinformation debunked by independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact:
03/04/2020. Mail Online. “Trump-backed anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is the most effective coronavirus treatment currently available, finds international poll of 2,000 doctors”
Claim: A majority of 6,200 doctors said hydroxychloroquine is the most effective coronavirus treatment.
Full Fact finding: The poll the data comes from is not representative of all doctors. 37%, not a majority, of those involved in Covid-19 treatment worldwide said hydroxychloroquine was among the most effective treatments.
10/03/2020. Daily Express. “Coronavirus may have been genetically engineered for the “efficient spreading in the human population,” a bombshell new study has claimed.”
Claim: Coronavirus may have been genetically engineered for “efficient spreading in the human population,” a bombshell new study has claimed.
Full Fact finding: This is wrong and the study does not claim the new coronavirus has been genetically engineered. It simply compares the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 with other coronaviruses, and suggests a reason why it might be spreading relatively efficiently.
16/02/2020. Mail Online. “Did coronavirus originate in Chinese government laboratory? Scientists believe killer disease may have begun in research facility 300 yards from Wuhan wet fish market”
Claim: Scientists believe that coronavirus may have come from bats in a Chinese research facility.
Full Fact finding: Two Chinese scientists have published an article suggesting that the 2019 coronavirus outbreak could have originated from bats in a laboratory in Wuhan. However, apart from maps showing the proximity of laboratories, they offer no evidence to prove this.
05/04/2020. Mail Online. “Tiger named Nadia tests positive for coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo after she developed a dry cough”
Claim: Tiger has tested positive for Covid-19 (the infection caused by the new coronavirus).
Full Fact finding: This is confirmed by a statement from Bronx Zoo in New York, USA, where the tiger is kept. The evidence about animal-to-human transmission has not changed since Full Fact previously wrote about this topic (see here). The World Health Organisation writes, “while there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.”
The British Veterinary Association has stated that “there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.” UK government advice for people with pets and livestock during the coronavirus pandemic is available here.
We will ask Full Fact to investigate any misreporting and it will help inform our submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the role newspapers have played in spreading disinformation during the Covid19 crisis.
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