Mythbusters: Sorting The Fact From The Fake On Coronavirus And Lockdown

Two brothers learning about coronavirus.

After the World Health Organization officially changed its classification to a pandemic on the 11th of March, coronavirus has quickly become the number one talking point across the UK and Europe. And as with all widespread discussions - this hasn't been without rampant rumours!

So, if you're not one for reading or watching the news, then fear not - as we have addressed some of the most common coronavirus related questions and answers from reliable sources to clear up a host of untruths surrounding COVID-19.

The virus was started in a Chinese laboratory

Let's start in chronological order: with the conspiracy theories that have emerged about the origin of the virus.  There have been thousands of internet rumours suggesting that COVID-19 was created and let loose from a laboratory in China (this has now also been addressed by politicians all over the world) - but, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. A study has been done to flatten this rumour, that demonstrates that the virus is just a natural product of evolution! Although this pandemic may be unprecedented in its global response socially and economically, scientists and epidemiologists have seen this type of virus before and it is not majorly unusual or unexpected. So, the verdict here is that these facts are fake. Most research points towards the virus being created naturally and passed to us from bats - which was also the case for SARS.

5G helps to spread coronavirus

Another important rumour to address is about the ongoing discussion surrounding the installation of 5G. With this fifth-generation mobile technology continuing to establish itself across the world, several conspiracy theories have started to emerge! The most recent of these being that 5G is responsible for the sudden spread of coronavirus across the globe. Whilst some rumours are harmless, this one is arguably the most important to address since it has spurred several arson attacks in neighbourhoods with these new masts.

Some of these rumours claim that 5G can help to spread diseases more rapidly, as a paper was published in 2011 that stated that bacteria can communicate via electromagnetic signals. Whilst experts and epidemiologists continue to dispute this theory - it is important to remember that COVID-19 is a virus and not a bacterium anyway.

Unfortunately, as Wuhan was one of the first cities to trial 5G in China, the coincidence has helped to spur these rumours further. If you have read any of these conspiracies online, just remember that although this does sound like a coincidence, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou also rolled out 5G at a similar time. This highlights the importance of looking at the bigger picture when it comes to rumours! Plus, it is also worth noting that COVID-19 has significantly impacted countries with very little 5G coverage, such as Iran.

Scientist holding petri dish

Wearing a mask will protect against the virus

A lot of people like to think that masks will give you protection, and whilst there is some truth in this, it is also important to understand the limitations in wearing them. General advice from the government is that masks are mainly useful for members of the public that are showing symptoms, as they are more effective as a barrier for spreading - as opposed to protecting.

With the supply of PPE making the news daily at the moment, face masks may seem like gold dust to you or me! However, as health care workers will know, whilst some masks are sufficient in providing personal protection, others will do close to nothing. For front line workers dealing with COVID-19 positive patients, it is important for them to wear an N95 mask, as it provides 95% protection against airborne particles. It also has to be fitted to ensure that there is a perfect seal. However, for the majority of people who are fortunate enough to be staying safe in their homes, off-the-shelf face masks are not recommended by government guidelines. Instead, stick to the basics that we've been taught: wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid close contact with anyone outside of your household and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The World Health Organisation has not yet suggested that widespread mask-wearing will help to prevent infection on a national level, so instead, stick to government medical advice and information about the prevention of the disease and you/your family will be just fine!

Closing borders will stop the virus from spreading

Epidemiologists have stated that historically, travel bans have not proven to be very effective. From what we know about coronavirus, we can see that it doesn't respect national borders, so remember that it's not the fault of a government that this type of outbreak is spreading - it's just the nature of the virus itself. Globalisation has meant that 'life as we know it' would be completely unachievable if countries were to shut off their borders and in fact, this in itself would cause widespread devastation! Enforcing coronavirus sanctions must also be in a balancing act with other global factors!

So, whilst medically untrained people may spread fear about people bringing coronavirus with them from other countries, it is worth noting that travelling between countries that already have COVID-19 is very unlikely to be playing a part in spreading it further. Of course, as with any travel deemed 'essential', it is still important to adhere to the advice that we've been given: wash your hands with soap and water regularly and keep 2 metres away from other people.

If you think you may need to travel to another country during lockdown, contact your healthcare provider, who can provide some travel advice about various areas that may be reporting outbreaks of coronavirus disease.

Kids can't catch the coronavirus

The perhaps reassuring rumour that has been circulating, is that your little ones can't catch coronavirus. Although this isn't true and children can definitely catch COVID-19, they are much less likely to develop serious symptoms from the disease. Initial reports suggested that fewer cases were reported in children compared with adults and this is probably due to the fact that they rarely become seriously unwell with it. Parents may mistake their symptoms for a common cold and will not take them to the doctors.

Whilst they are unlikely to become unwell from the virus, remember that they do pose a risk of spreading the virus due to the way that they interact with their friends! Children are often a lot more tactile with each other than we are as adults, meaning that there is a higher risk for the airborne particles to spread between them.

Since schools are now shut for the lockdown period, it is unlikely that children will be mixing with each other, however, it is still important to clear up the fact from the fake. And remember that if your child is displaying symptoms of a common cold or COVID-19 - they are highly likely to make a speedy recovery - so don't panic!

Child playing

It is not safe to receive items from China

Despite rumours about its safety, the World Health Organization has stated that is is safe to receive packages from China. Research has found that coronaviruses do not survive long on objects such as letters and packages, meaning that your parcels are highly unlikely to be infected on this basis. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of coronavirus associated with imported goods, and so far, there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States that has been associated with imported goods. Rather, the coronavirus is thought to be most commonly spread through droplets coming from the mouth and nose, and is believed to only survive anywhere for a maximum of 72 hours.

So, instead of avoiding ordering items, if you feel uneasy about receiving parcels or letters of any sort, simply wash them down with soap as you receive them, or leave them for a few days until you open them. This should be sufficient in preventing any viruses from surviving and will also help to ease your worry!



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