Image source: WhatsApp
Coronavirus hoaxes are circulating on Namibian social media at a concerning rate, despite many already having been debunked by fact checkers around the world.
Namibia Fact Check refers to the following examples of disinformation as hoaxes because they are malicious deceptions with the apparent aim to cause harm by sowing panic and confusion. The following are hoaxes that were circulating on Namibian social media in mid-March 2020:
Marijuana / cannabis wards off COVID-19 infection
This hoax has been circulating in WhatsApp groups and on other social media platforms.
The claim also appeared in a Namibian Twitter feed on 16 March 2020.
The claim is FALSE.
First, by 16 March 2020, Jamaica had recorded 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases, so the claim that Jamaica had no confirmed infections is clearly false. Second, there is no scientific evidence of cannabis / marijuana preventing or curing COVID-19 infections. In terms of preventive measures or treatments, the World Health Organisation (WHO) maintains the following:
This hoax has been around a while and was already debunked by other fact checkers. On 20 February 2020, AFP Fact Check published an article stating:
“A YouTube video of a doctor discussing the health benefits of cannabis has been viewed thousands of times among Sri Lankan Facebook users alongside a claim that cannabis can boost a person’s immunity to the novel coronavirus. The claim is misleading; medical experts have emphasised there is no evidence to suggest that cannabis improves immunity against the virus and have urged the public to follow official government health guidelines.”– AFP Fact Check
To see other fact checks of this claim, go here and here.
Chewing garlic, eating lemon or drinking lemon-laced water protects against COVID-19 infection
Such claims have been around in some form or other for a while and continue to circulate on social media. The latest version of the claims that has made a turn on Namibian social media is a video clip shared in WhatsApp groups in which an Asian-looking man extols the virtues of garlic and lemon, as well as onions, as protections against coronavirus infection.
About the garlic claim, the World Health Organisation (WHO) maintains the following:
As for the lemon claim, an AFP Fact Check post debunking a similar claim on 12 March 2020 stated:
“A text shared thousands of times on Facebook in various countries claims that drinking warm water with lemon protects against the novel coronavirus. The claim is false; experts told AFP that there’s no proof this is effective in preventing the disease and that practicing good hygiene is the best way to stay healthy. The posts also include several other false claims.”– AFP Fact Check
For another fact check of such a claim, see here.
Chinese intelligence officer reveals truth about COVID-19
This hoax has been doing the rounds in Namibian WhatsApp groups since early March 2020, and purports to be from a senior Chinese intelligence officer claiming that COVID-19 was a bio-weapon developed by the Chinese government, with tacit support from the American ‘deep state’.
According to a debunk article by Indian fact checker Boom on 15 March 2020, the post originated on a conspiracy theory website “which is dedicated to sharing horror fiction stories”.
Boom found that:
… the article, titled, ‘Corona Unmasked: Chinese Intelligence Officer Reveals True Magnitude of China’s Fake Coronavirus Crisis,’ is a work of fiction and could be traced to a Reddit forum called r/NoSleep. Users share fictional horror stories that is often inspired by real events on this forum of the platform.”– Boom
An earlier fact check of the viral post by Snopes.com, on 20 February 2020, can be found here.
And then there’s this …
A video posted to the Facebook page of a Namibian media practitioner pushed the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created to mask the toxicity of 5G infrastructure, along with other dubious claims, including anti-vaxxer conspiracies. The video originates on this Facebook profile.
When you click through to the Facebook profile hosting the video, you are immediately informed that it is “False information” that has been “Checked by independent fact-checkers”.
And when you click on the video, the following window pops up:
Here is the full Politifact fact check article linked to in the Facebook warning pop-up accompanying the video.
For some more debunks of COVID-19 myths and hoaxes, see this AFP Fact Check roundup of all the false coronavirus information debunked by them up to 16 March 2020.
Namibian social media users are urged not to just share or forward conspiracy theories and ‘advice’ about the COVID-19 pandemic, but to rather seek out guidance from authoritative sources, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or other credible authorities. Here’s another resource that could come in handy.
Please STOP sharing false information on social media.