COVID-19 myth busters: How to deal with disinformation

Citizens are now being urged to be discerning about what information they consume and rather rely on trusted sources.

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JOHANNESBURG - Much like the rest of the world, South Africans have not been spared the curse of disinformation and myths surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Citizens are now being urged to be discerning about what information they consume and rather rely on trusted sources.

From home remedies, vaccines, cures, and other theories – Eyewitness News broke down the facts and what you need to steer clear of.

The government made it clear anyone who spreads fake news or propaganda that sought to counter its efforts would be liable for prosecution. But that didn’t stop some people from, inadvertently or not, disseminating untruths.

You may have heard about drinking a cup of lemon water with cider and vinegar three times a day, chewing on a clove of raw garlic, or other herbal concoctions. While these may be good immune boosters, they were not proven scientifically to treat COVID-19.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ head of vaccinology Melinda Suchard said the weirdest trick being touted was how blowing up hot air through your nostrils using a hairdryer could supposedly kill the virus.

“The hairdryer one came around the discussion of heat, that it could be able to kill the virus. Heat does kill many infectious agents but it’s usually, for example, boiling using very hot temperatures, to wash clothes, and to iron clothes,” Suchard said.

Suchard said the best way to avoid misinformation was to interrogate all sources of information.

“And if one is not sure about sources, rather don’t send the original meme itself but rather ask a question whether that’s true or not,” she said.

Meanwhile, with the global race against time to develop a vaccine, old inoculations used to treat diseases such as tuberculosis found their way back into mass media.

Suchard stressed that there was no conclusive evidence to back up claims that they could cure TB as clinical trials were underway.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.