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Death by Coronavirus fake news? A Q&A

By Aarti Bhana

Maybe it’s the ‘rona, but conspiracy theorists and fake news pundits have really levelled up of late. From Bill Gates’s so-called vaccine for Africa, to the lethal dangers of a 5G internet connection, things are getting weird across the globe. We took the liberty of separating fact from fiction for you.

1. Is 5G killing us?

No. It’s a conspiracy theory that started as early as January in the UK, but picked up steam in early April. It has people believing that 5G, the latest mobile connectivity technology, is spreading Covid-19 faster – and that it was rolled out in Wuhan, China, where the virus first broke out, This is also not true. Some celebrities have fuelled the fire, and cellphone companies are tearing their hair out with people burning phone masts in protest – despite the fact that not all the masts are 5G towers. There’s no proof 5G – or any other radio waves – are harmful to people.

2. What exactly did Bill Gates say about Covid-19 vaccines?

Well we know he DIDN’T say that Covid-19 vaccines should be tested in Africa! This news has created a HUGE uproar on most social media platforms and even News24 ran a story on it. It turned out to be a complete load of BS. Bill Gates did, however, say is that he will help with test kits and research for a vaccine to fight corona. He did not say Africa is a guinea pig for Covid-19 vaccines.

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3. But some French doctors said something about this too?

Yup. There are two French doctors who said a new potential treatment for Covid-19 should be tested in Africa. In a televised interview, they said Africa does not have masks, treatment or ICUs and that it’s the ideal place for testing. This caused yet another uproar – understandably this time. The World Health Organisation said the comments were racist and called it a ‘hangover from a colonial mentality’. Other researchers and even soccer players called the pair out for being racist. The two doctors have since apologised.

But that’s not all folks, another French doctor Didier Raoult warned people about a so-called vaccine ‘created’ by Bill Gates for use in Africa. He allegedly said the vaccine was created to ‘destroy Africa’. This particular message may have started the anti-Gates sentiment across Twitter and Africa. 


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4. Is there a vaccine for Covid-19?

Not yet. Medical teams across the world are racing to create a vaccine for Covid-19 but the spread of misinformation is making things harder. Doctors fear that a vaccine will go to waste if people believe things like the 5G conspiracy and other anti-vaxxer propaganda. Refusing the vaccine will just make things worse. It’s all very counter-productive. Read more here.

5. Is this all linked to not being able to forward messages on WhatsApp?  

Well, you can forward messages, but it’s limited. In the time of Corona, WhatsApp is trying to help stop the spread of misinformation, because let’s be honest, it’s spreading faster than the virus. WhatsApp is imposing strict measures on frequently forwarded messages. They can’t remove a message like Facebook and Twitter, so this is the next best thing. You’ll know a message to be potential BS if it has two forward arrows on top. 

6. While we on the topic of communication, I heard a whole minister broke SA’s lockdown rules?

Yes, you heard right. Minister of Communications and Digital Technology, Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams broke South Africa’s lockdown rules when she went to former ANC MP Mduduzi Manana’s home for lunch this weekend, as pictured in a now-deleted post on Manana’s Instagram account. People were triggered! Manana claimed Abrahams did not come for a ‘social lunch’ but rather that she came to fetch protective gear ahead of a site visit and that he asked her to join his family for lunch. Not many people bought the explanation though and called for disciplinary measures. Ramaphosa summoned Abrahams to explain her actions – and placed her on special leave for two months – one month of which would be unpaid. Because no one is above the law!

7. What happened to that South African guy telling people testing kits are contaminated?

This one’s hectic boet! A 55-year-old man recorded a video of himself warning people to REFUSE door-to-door Covid-19 testing in South Africa. Demonstrating how it’s done – with an earbud up his nostril (pretty) – he said the testing kits might be contaminated and that’s how the virus is spreading. He’s also one of the geniuses who believe the 5G conspiracy theory. The Health Department condemned him and his theory, and he was arrested under the Disaster Management act, which makes the spreading of misinformation about the virus illegal. The man will see his day in court on Tuesday.

8. Did a tiger really contract Covid-19?

Yeah dude! Up until now, it wasn’t confirmed if animals could contract the virus. There were isolated cases of animals testing positive, but the news of the infected big cat at the Bronx Zoo in New York caught everyone’s attention. The tiger caught the virus from the zookeeper and about five other big cats may be infected. This is new territory for science and doctors (and tigers). We don’t know yet how or if animals can spread the virus back to us.

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