There are a lot of reasons why misinformation about COVID-19 is so damaging. It causes confusion and panic, it inflames prejudice and racism, and it creates false villains in a time where we need to stick together.
One in 10 Canadians believe that the COVID-19 crisis is a conspiracy, according to a preliminary study coming out of Quebec. The good news is that the vast majority are open to the truth—we need to get to that one in 10, to help cut through conspiracy theories.
This week let’s unpack a few ideas that won’t seem to go away.
Myth #1 - COVID-19 mainly came to Canada from China
Actually, the U.S., not China, was a greater source of transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.
The province by province breakdown shows that, across the country, far more cases of COVID-19 were brought home from the U.S. and other international travel.
It’s helpful to remember that there is no single source of this virus coming into the country. The speed of the spread was new to the whole world, and a reflection of globalization. As we work to combat prejudice in the face of our frustrations, let’s make sure we get all the facts.
Myth #2 - COVID-19 was made in a lab
From Vancouver to Winnipeg to Oakville, some Canadians got a shock in their mailboxes last week via a newspaper suggesting that the coronavirus is a potential bioweapon or part of a bigger cover-up by the Chinese government.
Jason Kindrachuk, a Canada research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, says: “There is an unbelievably high consensus within the scientific community at this point that there is, there is a very close to zero, if not zero, chance that the virus was ever engineered."
Though this myth just doesn’t seem to go away, the consensus across the board remains that there is no evidence to support that this virus was created in a lab and then disseminated to cause total global chaos and a collective dystopian nightmare.
Myth #3 - 5G technology is poisoning cells and causing the pandemic
This popular myth won’t seem to go away even though scientists say that it’s biologically impossible for COVID-19 to be either transmitted through 5G or that 5G can effectively suppress the immune system, in turn making people more susceptible to the virus.
Some of these theories fly because they comfortably fit some people’s political beliefs. But it’s still not based on scientific fact. An early video describing how 5G allows infection in the body was easily debunked by virologists, CBC found.
Though no direct link has been proven yet, cell towers in Quebec burned down under suspicious circumstances in the midst of 5G towers being lit up around the world. Not only does this not do anything to contribute to the frontline fight against COVID-19, but it’s also destroying the very communications networks keeping us connected during a time when we need it the most.
Jo Snyder is a seasoned communications professional with expertise on the social determinants of health and health equity. Over her career, she's worked with think tanks, non-profits and big tech to deliver comms of all kinds.
This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.