Debunking COVID-19 myths
PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK
Vaudreuil-Soulanges Member of Parliament Peter Schiefke is reminding people to consider their source of information when it comes to the glut of rumours and fake news that is propagating the internet in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Peter Schiefke
Member of Parliament for Vaudreuil-Soulanges
On Thursday, November 19, I made an important addition to my virtual Town Hall series. Since the onset of the pandemic my online discussions have been geared towards sharing essential information regarding the Government of Canada's COVID-19 support programs for families, workers, small business owners, and the safety measures that Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, is asking Canadians to take to limit the spread. On Thursday, I decided to devote the bulk of my time to address and debunk the most widespread COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Typically speaking, I would not give credence to the false information and ‘pseudoscience’ circulating online. However, in these unprecedented times, clarifying and differentiating between incorrect information and peer-reviewed science and fact is a question of our collective health and security. The decisions we make on protecting our physical, mental and financial well-being should be based on verifiable, science-based information. As your Member of Parliament, I will continue to provide you with the most reliable information possible while also taking the time to debunk the false information that is more prevalent than ever.
COVID conspiracy theory #1: The Government of Canada is building isolation camps to confine us all
In a video shared online an independent provincial MPP in Ontario surmises how the government would forcibly detain Canadians. He was reacting to funding allocated for the ‘New Voluntary Self-Isolation Centre’ in Toronto, a venue being funded for the homeless diagnosed with COVID-19 but with no access to a safe environment in which to self-isolate. This funding also expands self-isolation capabilities for returning international travelers who do not have access to a suitable place to stay. Unfortunately, misinformation like this is intended to deceive Canadians and cause fear and confusion. Canadians will not be forced into COVID-19 internment or containment camps.
COVID conspiracy theory #2- Masks are ineffective at helping stop the spread of COVID-19
At the outset of the pandemic, scientists knew very little about the virus. Over time, we’ve since learned that people can become infected and spread COVID-19 without ever developing symptoms. We know people can contract the virus multiple times. Research has also shown that when combined with repeated hand washing and a physical distancing of at least 2m, masks help limit the virus' transmission.
Additionally, for most people, wearing a mask is neither dangerous nor detrimental to personal health. Healthcare professionals wear masks regularly and sometimes for very long periods without detrimental health effects.
Following these simple health protocols is an easy way to help stop the spread of COVID-19. You can find detailed specifications on how to properly use a mask and what types of materials should be used for masks here: tinyurl.com/ycc5mx58
COVID conspiracy theory #3: COVID-19 is no worse than the annual flu
Public Health Canada reports approximately 3,500 people die from influenza every year, and an additional 12,200 are hospitalized. Comparatively, in just the last nine months, COVID-19 has been responsible for nearly 11,000 deaths in Canada, nearly three times the average annual number of influenza deaths. Additionally, approximately 19,000 people were hospitalized for COVID, of which 3,724 people were admitted to the ICU and 841 people required mechanical ventilation. These are real people and real families.
Additionally, 5% to 10% of those who have recovered from COVID-19, mostly aged between 20 and 50 years, are experiencing after-effects of the virus. They are reporting experiencing moderate to severe symptoms such as tachycardia, muscle and joint pain, exhaustion, and migraines more than 60 days after the onset of the illness. COVID-19 has also been known to cause neurological damage ranging from simple cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell to headaches, stroke and epilepsy. So, to be blunt, no, coronavirus is not ‘just the flu.’
COVID conspiracy theory #4: THE COVID-19 vaccine will not be safe and will be used to secretly microchip Canadians
The theory being circulated is that Microsoft Founder Bill Gates (and others) want to use the COVID-19 vaccination to secretly microchip everyone. Once again, this is simply not true. Let me address the health aspect of this theory. Before a vaccine is approved for use in Canada, it must first undergo an extensive verification process. The leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates are currently being tested in large-scale trials involving hundreds of thousands of people. Once these manufacturers have concluded their respective studies, Health Canada will review them to ensure they have followed all of the necessary steps, met the requirements, and that the data submitted for review is verifiably correct. A COVID-19 vaccine will not be made available to Canadians until it has met the most stringent standards set forth and followed by Health Canada.
During my Town Hall I also made a pledge to publicly have the vaccine administered to me once all front line workers and those most vulnerable had received it, in order to show I will not promote families in our community taking the vaccine without showing I’m willing to do so as well.
I’m a firm believer we must always remain vigilant in what we put in our bodies, but I also believe we must also not diminish the lifesaving benefits vaccines have provided to us all and will continue to provide during and after this pandemic.
COVID conspiracy theory #5: The virus was manufactured in a laboratory in China
After the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, many have claimed it was created in a laboratory. Some have even surmised it was designed as a biological weapon.
This theory has been categorically rejected by several researchers and intelligence agencies in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. According to their conclusions, published in a recent edition of the trusted publication Nature Medicine journal, the analysis of the sequence of the SARS-Cov-2 genome shows it is the result of natural evolution and could not have been created in a laboratory.
COVID conspiracy theory #6: 5G TECHNOLOGY CAUSES COVID-19
Widely circulating on social media, these theories suggest a correlation between 5G technology and the spread of COVID-19, theories which were quickly studied and demystified. COVID-19 is a biological virus and 5G is a technology. They are in no way related.
Erroneous theories about the effect of radiofrequency (RF) energy on the population have been widely shared on social networks. According to an evaluation conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, no adverse effects of cellular waves, radio or Wi-Fi have been demonstrated to date. While 5G uses higher frequency non-ionizing ‘millimetre waves,’ than previous generations of cell phones, these waves do not travel very far. They require a vast number of antennas – these facts fuel fears of overexposure, which inspire conspiracy theories. I assure you the Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canadians' health and safety from environmental risks, including those posed by overexposure to RF energy. Canada's approach to RF exposure safety is among the most stringent in the world.
It is becoming more common for information that is editorial in nature to be shared as fact. It’s an unfortunate reality we must all confront and be keenly aware of. Identifying false information and pseudoscience is more important than ever, particularly at a time when the information being shared with us on a daily basis is at unprecedented levels. Before sharing anything online, it’s essential to find and check the source. Is it credible? Is there more than one credible source sharing the same information? Is it peer-reviewed science, or is it an opinion? For the health and safety of our family, our neighbours and our community, let’s all do our part to stop the spread of misinformation.
For more information and to learn how to spot false information, visit BreakTheFake.ca
To watch Peter Schiefke’s Town Hall video, consult www.facebook.com/PeterSchiefkeLiberal/videos/372906860481536