A video of a group of panellists claiming that the world is not facing a coronavirus pandemic is widespread on social media platforms. “WHO has completely taken a U-turn and now says that Corona patient neither needs to be isolated, nor quarantined, nor needs social Distancing, and it cannot even transmit from one patient to another [sic],” reads the accompanying claim viral with the video.
The complete message reads in Hindi, “ब्रेकिंग न्यूज़: डबल्यू.एच.ओ ने अपनी गलती मानी पूरी तरह से यू-टर्न लेते हुए कहा है कि कोरोना एक सीजननल वायरस है यह मौसम बदलाव के दौरान होने वाला खांसी जुकाम गला दर्द है इससे घबराने की जरूरत नहीं. डब्ल्यू.एच.ओ अब कहता है कि कोरोना रोगी को न तो अलग रहने की जरूरत है और न ही जनता को सोशल डिस्टेंसिंग की जरूरत है। यह एक मरीज से दुसरे व्यक्ति में भी संचारित नहीं होता। देखिये WHO की प्रैस कांफ्रेंस.” It says that the WHO has said that COVID is a seasonal virus and has asked coronavirus patients to not isolate since they cannot transmit the infection.
It has been circulating since last year.
#BreakingNews: WHO has completely taken a U-turn and now says that Corona patient neither needs to be isolated, nor quarantined, nor needs social Distancing, and it cannot even transmit from one patient to another
Posted by Muskan Suppliers on Tuesday, 27 October 2020
Alt News has received numerous requests on its WhatsApp helpline number (+91 76000 11160) to fact-check the video.
The video had also been shared with another message that identifies the panel as a “group of European doctors”.
Breaking news: Group of European doctors have taken a U-turn and now says that Corona patient neither needs to be isolated, nor quarantined, nor needs social Distancing, and it cannot even transmit from one patient to another pic.twitter.com/crwQV9LeAl
— Akash RSS (@Satynistha) October 23, 2020
1. WHO has taken a complete U-turn and now says that coronavirus patients neither need to be isolated nor quarantined. They also don’t need social distancing
2. We don’t have a medical pandemic or epidemic.
3 Coronavirus is a normal flu virus.
4. Panic is created by false-positive PCR tests. 89% to 94% of those PCR tests are false positives. They don’t test for COVID-19 and the rest are false negatives.
5. Up until April 2020 there was zero death in Ireland. In the whole country in 2020, there were 98 deaths out of 5 million people.
6. Masks are unnecessary and infringe on constitutional rights.
7. COVID-19 does not require people to get vaccinated
1. The video does not show WHO panellists. The international agency advises isolation for COVID-19 patients.
The video begins with a woman identifying herself as Elke De Kerke, a general practitioner representing the Netherlands. She is the founder of ‘Doctors for Truth’. The panellists are a part of ‘World Doctors Alliance’, a body that identifies as an NGO. It is infamous for promoting conspiracy theories on coronavirus and medical misinformation.
British-Pakistani doctor Mohammad Adil had his license suspended by the General Medical Council of UK for claiming that the coronavirus pandemic is a conspiracy. The website of World Doctors Alliance claims that Dr Adil formed the organisation. Another doctor Heiko Schöning associated with the Alliance was arrested for speaking at an anti-mask rally in central London.
None of the panellists are medical practitioners with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The claim that the WHO took a complete “U-turn” and declared that COVID patients needn’t be isolated or quarantined has been debunked earlier.
The WHO in fact said that even asymptomatic people should quarantine. “People not showing symptoms can spread the virus, whether they ultimately feel sick or not. That’s why wearing masks and keeping distance are so important in limiting transmission.”
2. The world is coping with a pandemic.
The WHO defines a pandemic as the “worldwide spread of a new disease”. According to John Hopkins COVID tracker, global cases of the virus has crossed 172 million. A few small countries and island nations have remained free of the coronavirus mainly due to isolation which has had economic repercussions, but most of the world was coping with the pandemic and many are still experiencing devastating effects.
3. COVID-19 is not a normal flu virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such a MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.”
The novel coronavirus is a new strain of the coronavirus family. It has unique characteristics and has never been discovered before. It has mild to severe symptoms and may also cause deaths for critical patients. Serious patients may need hospitalisation, intensive care, oxygen or ventilators to survive. As witnessed in the second wave of COVID-19 in India, thousands of people have fallen ill and died due to a lack of oxygen. The common cold, on the other hand, is not deadly.
“When any of the coronaviruses (or rhinoviruses for that matter) cause the common cold, the physicians’ aim is to (a) stop the transmission of the infection to other people and (b) treat the symptoms. This is because the common cold is a self-limited disease – it cures by itself. It is for this reason, antivirals or antibiotics are not given for a common cold. In the usual clinical picture, it is also not required to find out which organism has caused the common cold since it has no bearing on its treatment,” Dr Sharfaroz Satani wrote in an Alt News Sci Check published on March 25, 2020.
4. Number of false positives/ negatives in PCR tests is exaggerated.
The two most common tests to detect coronavirus are RT-PCR and RAT. The panel claims that 89% to 94% of those PCR tests are false positives. While there are chances of a false-positive result, the figure is highly exaggerated.
Dr Niket Rai, MBBS, MD, Maulana Azad Medical College, explained in an article last year, “Specificity of RT-PCR to detect SARS COV 2 in swab sample from nose and throat is around 98%. It means that out of 100 samples in only 2 samples it gives false-positive result…it is not recommended to repeat the test when it comes positive.” CBC quoted experts who said that RT-PCR is not prone to false positives and is routinely described as the “gold standard” for a reason.
Experts have been more concerned about false negatives. “A study last year found that the tests virtually never detect the virus on Day 1 of infection and tend to be at their best on Day 8, but even then there can be false-negative rates of up to 20 per cent. After Day 8, the study found the rate of false negatives increases,” according to CBC. While experts suggest that RT-PCR has a greater chance of giving a false negative result, the percentage is not as high as suggested by the panel.
Dr Rai also explained, “Sensitivity of RT-PCR to detect SARS COV 2 in swab sample from nose and throat is around 85%. It means out of 100 samples, 85 samples give a positive result. There are chances that 15 samples may have the virus but not detected by RT-PCR (false negative).” He suggests repeating the test if a patient feels they might have the virus.
5. There have been close to 5,000 deaths due to COVID in Ireland.
The panel claimed that there were zero deaths due to COVID in Ireland up until April 2020. According to the WHO’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were over 200 deaths in Ireland until April last year. As of June 3, 2021, there 2,61,872 confirmed cases and 4,941 confirmed deaths in the country. There have been zero deaths in Ireland in over two weeks.
6. Masks are effective to reduce transmission.
Alt News Science founder Dr Sumaiya Shaikh wrote last year, “Coronavirus can penetrate through masks through tiny viral clusters as well as through the eyes. However, masks on an infected person can prevent water droplets with coronavirus from dispersing into the air. This air transmission is the main method through which the coronavirus or other viruses infecting the respiratory tracts are transmitted.”
Read the WHO’s guidelines on masks here.
CDC has advised that masks can be forgone by fully vaccinated people and US health officials have announced the same after the changed guidelines. While experts believe that fully vaccinated people are not considered to be major spreaders of the virus but the loosening of masks can attract irresponsible behaviour. For starters, there is no way to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t (as of May 19, 37% of the US population is fully vaccinated) and giving up masks may put the unvaccinated at risk before herd immunity is reached.
7. Vaccines prevent people from falling severely ill.
The viral video was recorded in Berlin on October 10, 2020, when vaccines were yet to be rolled out. But it has now been a few months since countries have started vaccinated their citizens. Experts say that vaccines reduce the chances of infection or reduce the severity of the symptoms and fully vaccinated people are also potentially less likely to spread the virus. According to CDC, “COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response without having to experience sickness.”
Gavi also says that vaccines reduce transmission but studies are ongoing to “understand how long vaccine immunity is likely to last, and if and when booster shots will be required”. Responsible behaviour is still advised to protect those who haven’t been immunised.
A year-old video of a panel discussion by ‘World Doctors Alliance’ has been revived on Indian social media amid the second wave of the raging pandemic. The video raises conspiracies theories that have been debunked several times in the past by fact-checking organisations, news outlets and experts.