The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has claimed over 1.83 million lives worldwide so far, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, overwhelming health facilities around the globe. While the governments and health authorities have been working to contain the virus and slow down its transmission, they have also been struggling to put a lid on wild and baseless conspiracy theories. Several social media platforms scrambled to add labels, warnings and links to trusted news sources to bust the rumours.
Here are some of the baseless conspiracy theories around Covid-19:
Samajwadi Party leader Ashutosh Sinha said that his party does not believe in the machinery of the government, suggesting that the vaccine may be used for population control by making people impotent. Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) VG Somani on Sunday rubbished the latest conspiracy theory surrounding Covid-19 vaccine.
“The vaccines are 100 per cent safe. Some side effects like mild fever, pain and allergy are common for every vaccine. It is absolute rubbish that people may become impotent,” Somani was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
5G causes Covid-19
During the initial days of the coronavirus outbreak, an incomprehensible theory about 5G – the next-generation wireless network technology – causing the health crisis made its way to social media platforms. The conspiracy theorists pointed to the installation of 5G towers in Wuhan, China, before the virus outbreak. The Federal Communications Commission of the United States had to release a statement to quell the rumour.
“A worldwide online conspiracy theory has attempted to link 5G cell phone technology as being one of the causes of the coronavirus. Many cell towers outside of the US have been set on fire as a result. 5G technology does NOT cause coronavirus,” the statement read.
A 26-minute video titled ‘Plandemic’ was uploaded on YouTube which claimed the pandemic was a planned health crisis. In the video, a discredited medical researcher, Judy Mikovits, asserted that face masks “activates your own virus” and vaccines are “a money-making enterprise that causes medical harm”. The video also suggested that powerful elites were complicit in the virus outbreak and stand to profit from it.
The video garnered millions of views within hours before it was taken taken down by YouTube and other social media platforms for making false claims. Since then, several medical professionals have also come forward to rubbish the claim and a host of fact-check videos have been uploaded on YouTube to minimise the damage from such baseless theories.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has repeatedly said that wearing masks is a key measure to suppress virus transmission and save lives. According to the UN health agency, masks can be used for either protection of healthy persons or to prevent onward transmission. It has advised that masks should be used as part of a comprehensive approach.
Bill Gates and microchip
A Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 28 per cent of US adults believed a conspiracy theory that suggested Bill Gates, the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation, had planned to use a potential Covid-19 vaccine to implant microchips to monitor the movement of billions of people.
During a CNN Town Hall interview, Gates called it a “bad combination of pandemic and social media”, adding that people are looking for a very simple explanation. In another TV interview, Gates said that the truth needs to be out there and the conspiracy theories will die down as people get the facts.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated millions of dollars for Covid-19 vaccine and treatment research programmes. In February, the foundation pledged to donate $100 million to coronavirus vaccine research and treatment efforts and months later, it pledged an additional $1.6 billion to the Gavi vaccine alliance.
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