The spread of dubious claims and false information during the coronavirus outbreak has been rapid on the popular messaging platform – WhatsApp. Here, with the help of our team of doctors and fact-checkers, we debunk the hundred most widely circulated and harmful content and claims related to COVID-19.
By Deepika Khurana
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit our lives, it is only natural that we look for every source of information to see how best to protect ourselves and our families.
But in the midst of the crisis, misinformation has been spreading virally on various messaging platforms including WhatsApp, the popular messaging network that boasts about 160 million active users in India.
In fact, WhatsApp has been key to the spread of misinformation during the pandemic – right from dodgy lists of medical advice to speculation about government plans, concerned family and friends have used private group chats to forward misleading messages “just in case” they could be useful.
This is not just annoying; it can be dangerous too.
While speaking on the topic ‘Fake News and Misinformation’ at an online lecture series organised by Madras Bar Association, Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul too emphasised that unverified messages can lead to severe consequences. “There are a lot of messages about COVID-19 including its ‘remedies’, the origin, people who are ‘helping the spread of the virus’ and so on. These messages can take religious and racial undertones,” he said.
In the past too, WhatsApp forwards escalated misinformation problem to an extent that it led to mob lynching and killings across the country. According to reports, about 35 people died in 2018-19 because of mindless forwarding of WhatsApp rumours.
In addition, New research shows that WhatsApp usage can exacerbate groupthink, sometimes mobilising groups into acts of violence.
Though WhatsApp is consistently working to reduce the spread of misinformation and fake news, our team of fact-checkers across Asia have fact-checked all the coronavirus related messages – right from the origin of the virus and conspiracy theories to home remedies and misleading magical cures.
At Health Analytics Asia, we have debunked 100 most circulated COVID-19 WhatsApp forwards that have spread at the speed of the deadly virus itself.
1. Claim: You can beat the virus with warm water, salt or vinegar. This viral message claims that coronavirus, before it reaches the lungs, remains in the throat for four days and it is this time that the person begins to cough or have throat pain.
Truth: First there is no evidence to prove that the virus stays in the throat for four days. Second, gargling is often recommended for a sore throat, however, there is no evidence to suggest that it would prevent infection from COVID-19.
2. Claim: COVID-19 virus will be killed at a temperature of 30-35 degrees. Therefore, drink more hot water, go under the sun for a long time. “Drinking warm water is effective for mostly all viruses. Try not to drink ice. Remember that,” the message said.
Truth: Technically, the virus is destroyed at the temperature greater than 60 C and there’s no way the human body can handle that high temperature.
3. Claim: An image purporting to be a graphic by Zee News claims that India’s Home Ministry has signalled the country could be heading toward a complete lockdown from June 15, 2020, is going viral.
Truth: The widely circulated graphic that was poorly photoshopped had not been broadcasted by the channel and is fake.
4. Claim: A WhatsApp message claims that the pH value of the novel coronavirus ranges between 5.5 and 8.5 and thus, one should consume alkaline food that is above the pH level of the virus so as to prevent its spread. This information is being attributed to research published in the Journal of Virology. The message further lists the pH values of different food items such as lemon, orange, garlic, avocado, among others.
Truth: The claim is false as viruses do not have pH values. Also, the study quoted in the research dates back to but, COVID-19 is a new strain of the virus that was not even known in the 1990s.
5. Claim: With the world waiting for a vaccine against COVID-19, social media is full of remedies against the deadly infection. Many fake messages have been attributed to well-known personalities and eminent doctors. One such viral message suggesting 22 steps to protect from a coronavirus infection is being attributed to renowned Indian cardiac surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty. A long post written in Bengali points out 22 suggestions by Dr. Shetty, the chairman and founder of Narayana Health. Some of these suggestions ask people to leave shoes outside, use sanitisers instead of handkerchiefs and avoid outside food for one year.
Truth: The viral message is falsely attributed to Dr. Shetty as he did not issue any such suggestions. Such misleading messages should not be taken seriously.
6. Claim: Since the start of the pandemic there have been several theories claiming to be a magical cure for the deadly virus. However, the latest one doing rounds on WhatsApp and social media is the use of antimalarial drug chloroquinine to enhance immunity. A misleading message claims that all the people treated in Rajasthan, the first Indian state to get affected by COVID-19, were given this anti-malarial drug. It further advises people to have a dose of 400 mg tablet, twice or thrice in a week.
Truth: The forwarded message is not just misleading and irresponsible but it can prove life-threatening too as the drug in question has several side-effects. Infact, there have been several reports of poisonings in Nigeria where people were self-medicating with chloroquine against COVID-19.
7. Claim: Another picture message doing rounds on WhatsApp is on Bill Gates and White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci where they both are walking next to each other, violating social distancing norms and not wearing masks.
Truth: Reverse search image revealed that the picture was taken in December 2018 and has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.
8. Claim: A message stating that China’s whistleblower doctor proposed a cure in his case file before his unfortunate demise is widely circulated. While crediting CNN, an elaborate WhatsApp forward that went viral claimed Dr. Li Wenliang proposed that chemical *Methylxanthine*, *Theobromine* and *Theophylline* stimulate compounds can ward off COVID-19 virus in a human. These complex words that were so difficult for people in China to understand are actually called *Tea* in India. The message also claimed that the hospital staff in China has started serving tea to the patients 3 times a day, and the effect is finally seen in *Wuhan* where the virus has been contained and community transmission has almost stopped.
Truth: As of now, there’s no cure for COVID-19 and scientists are still working on creating a vaccine for coronavirus. Moreover, Dr. Li was an ophthalmologist, which further makes it hard to believe that he proposed a cure for the deadly virus.
9. Claim: As the world is fighting against the pandemic, the internet has become a breeding ground for fake news. A WhatsApp forward with Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma’s picture reads: “2020 is the year of staying alive and not a time to dream or plan.” The so-called quote attributed to Ma is being widely shared on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
Truth: There is no record that the Chinese business magnate has said something like that. Besides a fact-check organisation from Indonesia has debunked it through an official clarification from Alibaba Group which said that the quote did not come from Ma.
10. Claim: A viral post on WhatsApp claims that the Health Ministry has issued a warning against a new type of coronavirus infection ‘Clade A13-I’ in India. It further reads that the virus is spreading from Maharashtra, where 41 percent of the infected had died.
Truth: The message is misleading as neither the Health Ministry nor ICMR had issued any such warning about the new type of coronavirus infection spreading in India.
11. Claim: A viral post claiming coronavirus is found in tissue paper has been doing rounds for quite some time now. The post which is also a screengrab in a news format has a text highlighted that reads: COVID-19 FOUND IN TOILET PAPER, STRAIN OF DEADLY VIRUS BREEDS RAPIDLY IN TISSUE FIBRES.
Truth: The viral post is bogus as there is no evidence that novel coronavirus breeds on tissue paper. Besides, if we go by the report released by WHO, coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions.
12. Claim: Another dubious message doing rounds on messaging apps states: “Chinese are not taking any medicine or any vaccine for Coronavirus. Every house has a Coronavirus case. They have stopped going to the hospital for a cure. They instead kill the virus with heat. Very hot steam inhalation from kettle 4 times a day. Hot gargles 4 times a day. Hot tea 4 times a day. Virus dies in 4 days. 5th day they are Corona Negative.”
Truth: As countries across the globe are still struggling to find the vaccine for coronavirus, WHO has maintained that there is no cure or treatment for COVID-19. Also, WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for the disease.
13. Claim: If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, without coughing or difficulty in breathing, it indicates absence of COVID-19 infection.
Truth: The claim is absolutely bogus as cough is only one of the few symptoms that people with coronavirus may experience. There could be patients who may be infected and show symptoms such as fever and body ache.
14. Claim: Groceries, chemist, and vegetable shops will remain open only during specific hours as India observes complete lockdown. The message that went viral soon after states declared complete lockdown in the country said that essential item shops such as chemist, medicines, grocery, etc., will be open only during 9:00-11:30 am and 4:30-7:00 pm. Anyone opening or moving except these timings will be detained by the police.
Truth: The bogus message had no relevance as the government has made an announcement that shops selling essential goods will remain open even during complete lockdown.
15. Claim: Rasam, a soup-like concoction of herbs, tamarind juice and lentils is the best way to cure coronavirus. The forwarded message highlighted how years ago when Malaysia was hit by Nipah virus, Malaysian Indians were not affected as they consumed rasam. The message further said that for better results it should be consumed with rice.
Truth: Turmeric, one of the ingredients of rasam is an antibiotic, but, one cannot conclude that it can kill the deadly virus.
16. Claim: Constant sex kills coronavirus reads the text what seems to be a manipulated screenshot of a CNN news report. The message shows CNN anchor, Wolf Blitzer with CNN logo.
Truth: To the contrary, sex is a risk for contracting coronavirus, not a cure.
17. Claim: As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Haryana, a video has surfaced on the Internet claiming that several students of DPS Gurugram have tested positive after venturing out with their families when the lockdown was lifted. A short video widely shared on social media shows Mrs Aditi Misra, Principal of DPS Gurugram, sharing ‘very disturbing news’.
Truth: The video shared is fake as the civil surgeon of Gurugram confirmed that there were no reports of mass students testing positive for coronavirus in the city.
18. Claim: Everyone should stock up essentials such as milk, ration, medicines and cash as India is soon going to declare national emergency. The viral message was attributed to Dr. Naresh Trehan, chairman, and MD of Medanta Hospital.
Truth: The official statement released by the Medanta hospital clarifies that ‘the message in question’ is fake and should be disregarded as this can lead to panic buying and stock hoarding.
19. Claim: Another fake WhatsApp message doing rounds claims that labourers who have been working between 1990-2020 will get ₹1.2 lakhs from the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MLE).
Truth: The website link mentioned in the fake message does not exist. Also, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) debunked the viral WhatsApp text on its official Twitter handle warning people of such fraudulent websites.
20. Claim: Over the course of the last few months, WhatsApp is flooded with long warnings on how to either avoid or cure corona. But these messages are far from true. One such message that was widespread is a warning that claimed one should refrain from stepping out between May 3- 18 as the virus transmission would be at its peak.
Truth: The claim is fake and such messages are designed to create fear and panic among masses.
21. Claim: Ginger is the miracle cure for coronavirus. A viral message doing rounds on WhatsApp claims that as long as the body maintains heat, eat more ginger and do more exercise, you will not be infected with the virus. If you have a high fever, cover the quilt and drink ginger soup to increase the body’s heat energy without the need for a vaccine. Eating more ginger, garlic pepper can solve it. Also, the misleading message advises to eat less sweet, sour, and salty foods and to avoid going to cold weather areas.
Truth: According to the WHO while it is “healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties”, there’s no evidence that supports that eating garlic can protect people from the coronavirus.
22. Claim: Cutting onions into small pieces and eating without water can cure coronavirus. The bogus miracle cure also suggests not to drink water immediately and have it only after 5 minutes. And, the patient will be cured of coronavirus.
Truth: Eating onion is good for your health. However, it is not a cure for COVID-19 infection.
23. Claim: Homeopathic drug ‘Arsenicum album 30’ for prevention of Coronavirus infection. The message claims that the Ayush Ministry of India has suggested taking the Arsenicum Album-30 * homeopathic medicine for three days to avoid infecting the coronavirus.
Truth: This is misinformed advice. Arsenicum album 30 has not been proven or researched scientifically by homeopaths to cure coronavirus or any other infections in humans.
24. Claim: Boiled garlic water for treating coronavirus. The message reads: “Good news, Wuhan’s coronavirus can be cured by one bowl of freshly boiled garlic water. Old Chinese doctor has proven its efficacy. Many patients have also proven this to be effective. Eight (8) cloves of chopped garlic add seven (7) cups of water and bring to boil. Eat and drink the boiled garlic water, for overnight improvement and healing. Glad to share this.”
Truth: Though garlic helps to build immunity and has components that reduce common colds, there are no studies outlining the effect of the garlic on the coronavirus.
25. Claim: Breathing in hot air from a sauna or hairdryer can kill the novel coronavirus. The video doing rounds on WhatsApp claims that the COVID-19 virus hates heat and it dies if it is exposed to high temperature.
Truth: Experts claim such methods do be downright weird. There isn’t any strong evidence connecting environmental temperature to the transmission of coronavirus.
26. Claim: NASA satellite videos have shown that the coronavirus is retreating in India. The message credits hundreds and thousands of Indians who followed the Prime Minister’s message and clapped during Janta Curfew at 5 pm. The baseless WhatsApp forward further read that the cosmic level sound waves have been detected by NASA’s SD-13 wave detector and that it has shown COVID-19 strain diminishing and weakening in India.
Truth: There’s no such thing as SD-13 Wave Detector that is owned by NASA.
27. Claim: A viral message on WhatsApp and on various social media platforms claim that no vegetarian has been affected by coronavirus because it requires animal fat in the body to survive. The claim has been attributed to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Truth: The message is misleading as there is no scientific evidence to prove that vegetarians are safe from coronavirus. Besides, the WHO has never asked people to stop consuming non-vegetarian food during the pandemic.
28. Claim: Aside from washing your hands frequently, use Betadine Sore Throat Gargle to eliminate or minimise the germs while they are still in your throat (before dripping down to your lungs).
Truth: Washing hands is to be encouraged but the claim about gargling with Betadine sore throat for COVID-19 is totally misleading.
29. Claim: Avoid eating meat till coronavirus exists. The forwarded message further reads that coronavirus passes from animals to humans, thus, China is burning pigs to avoid this transmission.
Truth: Consuming raw or undercooked meat is not advisable. But well-cooked meat poses no risk to anyone, and doctors have reiterated that several times to avoid spreading rumours that suggest the contrary.
30. Claim: Chinese Government is shooting coronavirus infected people, almost 45000 killed.
Truth: This is a fake message as there is no such confirmed report. Besides, the claim originates from a suspicious website.
31. Claim: A viral message on WhatsApp and on various social media platforms claim that no vegetarian has been affected by coronavirus because it requires animal fat in the body to survive. The claim has been attributed to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Truth: The message is misleading as there is no scientific evidence to prove that vegetarians are safe from coronavirus. Besides, the WHO has never asked people to stop consuming non-vegetarian food during the pandemic.
32. Claim: Several WhatsApp users shared an image recently claiming that 1,000 buses were arranged by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi for migrants in Uttar Pradesh. The picture message was widely circulated on social media as well.
Truth: It was found the image is actually from February 2019, when the UP government created a Guinness world record by rolling out a fleet of 503 buses in Kumbh Mela held in Prayagraj. Hence the message is misleading.
33. Claim: Everyone should ensure their mouth and throat are moist, never dry. The advice attributed to Japanese doctors treating COVID-19 cases further reads that take a few sips of water every 15 minutes at least. Why? Even if the virus gets into your mouth, drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach. Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the viruses.
Truth: Though medical officials recommend drinking water during any infection, there’s no scientific evidence that supports the notion that sipping water prevents a virus from infecting the respiratory system.
34. Claim: Slices of lemon in a cup of lukewarm water can save your life. The WhatsApp forward is credited to Professor Chen Horin, CEO of the Beijing Military Hospital.
Truth: There’s no evidence that proves consuming lemon or a high amount of vitamin C is effective against coronavirus.
35. Claim: A nearly two-minute-long video of a huge crowd of people on a road and another group looking on from a terrace is going viral with the claim that it shows migrant labourers stuck at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border as they try to return home amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Truth: It is actually a video from October 2019 that was taken at the time of a recruitment drive for the Territorial Army held in UP’s Faizabad and is being falsely shared with this claim.
36. Claim: Verified or unverified advisories and orders by the government are another major hit among India’s chronic forwarders. A WhatsApp forward which looked like an order from the Government of Jammu and Kashmir read that the high speed (4G) internet services will be restored in the State by March 25. It also warned people that any misuse of internet facilities will result in legal action. The message, attributed to the principal secretary to the government, also had his signatures.
Truth: This was fake news as the government in its clarification said that they have no plan to restore 4G internet in the State.
37. Claim: A long forwarded message that begins with, “Government’s roadmap to ease COVID-19 restrictions is going viral on the messaging app. It reads that easing of restrictions will be set out in 5 phases. These phases will be on the 3-week review process, the current phases would commence on the following dates: Phase 1 – 18th May, Phase 2 – 8th June, Phase 3 – 29th June, Phase 4 – 20th July, Phase 5 – 10th August”. Divided into phases, the forward then goes on to describe elaborately what activities will and won’t be allowed in each stage and how the lockdown will slowly be lifted.
Truth: The government of India’s official fact-checking body clearly said that the roadmap had not been made by the Indian government. In fact, the same forward had also gone viral as the Singapore government’s plan.
38. Claim: A WhatsApp message that looked like a Facebook forward claimed that by inhaling steam from boiling sea salt and orange peelings for 15 minutes can prevent coronavirus from entering the body.
Truth: There is no scientific proof of the claim; the WHO does not mention this remedy.
39. Claim: A widely circulated rumour about the popular messaging app WhatsApp suggests that the Indian Government is snooping on users via the platform. The message suggested that the Facebook-owned messaging platform has started showing three ticks on a WhatsApp message. One blue tick on a WhatsApp message means that the message has been sent and two blue ticks mean that it has been delivered. Three blue ticks mean that the Indian Government is keeping a tab on the messages sent.
It further reads that if a message gets two blue ticks and one red tick, the government is in the position to take action against that particular message if it’s fake news. One Blue tick and two red ticks mean the government is screening your data. Lastly, three red ticks mean the government has started taking an action against you and you will receive a court notice soon.
Truth: The message has absolutely no relevance and the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has claimed the post to be completely false. In fact, the government through its official twitter handle has asked people to stay away from such rumours and not fall for them.
40. Claim: A screenshot of a news broadcast showing a lion in the street and reporting that Russia has deployed hundreds of lions to maintain lockdown order is going viral.
Truth: The claim is false as the photo used in the image was taken in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016. Moreover, Russia has not yet announced a nationwide lockdown.
41. Claim: Soon after British Prime Minister Boris Jhonson was diagnosed positive for coronavirus, there was a misleading WhatsApp forward doing rounds that claimed Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has contracted coronavirus.
Truth: To give rest to rumours and fake messages, Shah had tweeted a photo where he along with other ministers were attending a cabinet meeting chaired by Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi.
42. Claim: Another post that is going viral on the popular messaging app is a precautionary message that one can catch fire due to hand sanitizer as it has a high amount of alcohol. The message also shows hands of a lady who after applying sanitizer went near the stove and ended up burning her hands.
Truth: The viral message is misleading as the alcohol in the hand sanitizer evaporates completely once rubbed over the hands and leaves nothing to catch fire.
43. Claim: Another message claiming that scientists have found a cure for coronavirus and that it is the drinking of bitter gourd juice causing the virus to fade away in two hours is making rounds on social media.
Truth: If health experts are to be believed, bitter gourd’s juice is good for health, however, it has no role to play in curing coronavirus. The Indian government’s Press Information Bureau also issued a statement on March 18, 2020, calling the claim “absolutely false”.
44. Claim: In the thick of a global outbreak, a London-based news media organisation broke a story claiming that the Pakistani Prime Minister has been infected by the novel virus. The message went viral on WhatsApp.
Truth: Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has denied media reports that Imran Khan has tested positive for COVID-19.
45. Claim: The fake news about India reaching third stage transmission of the coronavirus outbreak evidently took the internet by storm. The message issuing a public warning is attributed to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The message also claims that if left unchecked, the total death count by the coronavirus outbreak in India could reach the number of fifty thousand. The message first started circulating on WhatsApp. It was later shared by many people on Facebook and other social media platforms as well. Some netizens went to the extent of making fake World Health Organisation templates to spread the misleading news.
Truth: The ICMR has not released an estimate of how many people will die due to the coronavirus pandemic in India.
46. Claim: Desperation for coronavirus vaccine is evident from this viral post with a video of United States President Donald Trump claiming that the “COVID-19 vaccine is ready and will be launched by the pharmaceutical giant Roche by next Sunday.” The message also confirms that millions of doses are ready from it !!!
Truth: Roche in a press release announced that FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for the cobas® SARS-CoV-2 Test. It says this “first commercial test for SARS-CoV-2 will enable expedited coronavirus testing to meet urgent medical needs”. The company had just thanked FDA for approval for coronavirus tests and not the vaccine, as claimed in the fake viral message.
47. Claim: Another WhatsApp forward spreading like a wildfire is attributed to Dr. A Dhanthi of Apollo Hospital Delhi and Dr. Ramesh Singh of Bihar State’s Health Department. The message clearly states that since the coronavirus dies in extreme heat, therefore, it is advised one should increase the body temperature by consuming foods such as 2-3 raw garlic cloves – 2 times a day, turmeric milk – once a day, pomegranate and papaya fruits, green tea, carom seeds, ginger, black pepper, etc.
Truth: There’s no scientific evidence that proves efficacy of these food items against coronavirus.
48. Claim: In the wake of Janta Curfew on March 22, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed masses to clap and clang plates to express gratitude to those providing essential services several fake messages started doing rounds. The message read: “An opinion given: 5 PM, 22nd Mar, ‘Amavasya’, darkest day of the month; virus, bacteria evil force at max potential & power! Clapping shankh vibrations reduce/ destroy virus potency Moon passing to new ‘nakshatra’ Revati. cumulative vibration betters blood circulation.”
Truth: Prime Minister Modi’s message was misinterpreted as there is no proven scientific evidence that vibrations created by collectively clapping can destroy the deadly virus.
49. Claim: Another viral message likely to create panic among people reads: “do not leave home under any circumstances”. The explanation highlights an imminent “peak incubation period” across the country, implying that all people will be more susceptible to contracting the disease. “The incubation period is completed so the contagious period will be at a peak and many will be susceptible to infection. Be vigilant and very careful,” the message says.
Truth: This was factually incorrect as the level at which people are contagious depends on their individual infection.
50. Claim: Amid nationwide lockdown, another fake message doing rounds claims that CBSE has endorsed a private agency named VH Softwares for the conduct of online classes. It further claims that all the schools in Maharashtra should get in touch with this private company and purchase the digital examination system.
Truth: CBSE shared a public advisory on its official website in this regard. It reads: “CBSE has neither endorsed any private agency for the conduct of online classes nor recommended any for the conduct of online examination and there is no OSD (Academics) appointed in CBSE. VH Softwares / VS Studies Pvt. Ltd is fraudulently misleading schools to advance its agenda, make money, or to simply cause havoc.”
51. Claim: Another widely circulated message claims that it’s dangerous to take ibuprofen if you have coronavirus. The University of Vienna has sent a memo warning people with coronavirus symptoms not to take ibuprofen, “because it has been discovered that it increases the speed of reproduction of the coronavirus Covid-19 in the body and this is the reason why people in Italy have reached the current bad stage and rapid spread,” reads the elaborate message.
Truth: There is currently no evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (COVID-19) worse. However, there are many studies that suggest ibuprofen use during a respiratory infection can result in worsening of the disease or other complications. So, before taking any medication, it’s advisable to consult your doctor.
52. Claim: A long message attributed to Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, encouraging people to reflect positively on their lives during the coronavirus outbreak has been shared in multiple countries. The message also made it to national newspaper websites and the Instagram account of Naomi Campbell, the supermodel.
Truth: The viral letter is a hoax and has been falsely attributed to Bill Gates.
53. Claim: Photoshopped image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the Internet shutdown for one week and claiming that it is being done to avoid panic in people is widely circulated on the messaging app and social media platforms.
Truth: The claim is incorrect as neither any Indian ministry nor any state government has made an official announcement about it. Moreover, PM Modi has only announced a 21-day nation-wide lockdown.
54. Claim: A message claiming that posting anything related to coronavirus on social media has been declared a punishable offence has been doing rounds on various messaging apps. The viral message reads, “All honorable members of the group are informed that right now any post related to coronavirus has been declared a punishable offense by the Central Government, only a government agency can post on Corona.”
Truth: The message is false. There is no such order by the Indian government. And there is no Ravi Nayak in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to whom this WhatsApp is attributed.
55. Claim: “In Israel, no death from C-19!” This is how the first line of a fake message, which is now being widely circulated online, starts. It then goes onto say how there’s a cure for coronavirus and also falsely claims that the virus didn’t cause any deaths in the country. The message then details a supposed cure for the pandemic – a combination of lemon, water, and bicarbonate (baking soda). It’s being circulated widely on WhatsApp by many.
Truth: As per official data of Israel, coronavirus has already claimed 31 lives in Israel and infected as many as 5,000 people. These numbers itself speak aloud about the misleading message. Further, there is no report by WHO that says lemon and bicarbonate mixture is a cure for COVID-19.
56. Claim: Another Whatsapp forward is urging people not to get out of their houses after 10 PM and stay in till 5 AM as ‘there will be spraying of medicine in the air to kill COVID-19’. “Hello, I kindly request you not to come out of your house after 10 pm tonight till tomorrow at 5 am…As there will be spraying medicine in the air in order to kill the COVID-19!! Share this information with all your friends, relatives, and your families. Thank you!” – reads the viral text. The message seems to be circulating in many cities, languages, and even across countries.
Truth: The message is false. In fact, the official Twitter handle of the Government of India has denied this viral claim.
57. Claim: A fake message that is doing rounds in the hospitality industry is a fabricated order with the Ministry of Tourism logo saying ‘hotels and resorts across India will remain closed till 15 October 2020 due to coronavirus disease’.
Truth: The Ministry of Tourism declared it to be a fake message. In its clarification, the tourism ministry released an official statement denying any such order.
58. Claim: Many people received a WhatsApp forward that advised people to wear surgical masks in reverse to make them fully effective.
Truth: There is only one way to wear surgical masks: with the coloured side facing outwards. The white side is actually an absorbent material and helps in breathing while the coloured outer layer is water-repellent, to prevent any bodily fluids from being absorbed into the mask.
59. Claim: A WhatsApp forward with an article published on a website called inventiva.co.in is claiming Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce Emergency in India under Article 360 — Financial Emergency.
Truth: This is a fake message as there is no such announcement by the government so far.
60. Claim: Fake news on WhatsApp claimed that the government has started a new scheme Rashtriya Skhikshit Berojgar Yojna to provide financial aid of ₹50,000 to ration cardholders. Another similar message read that to support jobless and unemployed individuals, the government will provide them ₹3,500 every month.
Truth: In a tweet, the Press Information Bureau clarified that no such scheme has been launched by the government. “Beware of such fake and fraudulent sites collecting your personal info/fees,” PIB tweeted.
61. Claim: A message is being shared widely on social media with a claim that Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has extended financial year closing till 30 June 2020 and that the next financial year will be from 01 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.
Truth: There is no change in the normal financial year. Hence the claim made in the post is absolutely false.
62. Claim: Mustard oil can prevent coronavirus is doing rounds on WhatsApp. In the message, it is being claimed that, as the virus enters through a person’s nose, if mustard oil is applied inside both the nostrils before bathing in the morning, it will protect him for at least eight hours from the virus. Also, the message claims that mustard oil is an anti-virus oil, and using it will cause the virus to stick to the walls of the nose thus preventing it from reaching a person’s lungs and getting infected.
Truth: Neither WHO nor the Ministry for Health & Family Welfare (India) has recommended the use of mustard oil for COVID-19.
63. Claim: As soon as news of Prince of Wales Charles having contacted coronavirus hit the headlines, a fake WhatsApp message started taking a dig at Kanika Kapoor for having infected him. The Bollywood singer who was tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from the United Kingdom on March 9 had undergone treatment at a hospital in Lucknow.
Truth: While the photos have gone viral on the internet, they aren’t from any recent gathering. The photos belong to a 2015 event – the Elephant Family charity ‘Travels to my Elephants’ — hosted by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
64. Claim: Another preachy message attributed to the World Health Organisation (WHO) reads: “Don’t eat cabbage, as per the WHO report, the coronavirus stays in cabbage for a very long time. On usual objects, the strains last for at least 9-12 hours, whereas the strain of the virus lasts more than 30 hours on cabbage. People are advised to stay away from cabbage.”
Truth: There is no scientific proof of the claim; the WHO has not mentioned any warning regarding the consumption of cabbage.
65. Claim: A viral post widely circulated on WhatsApp claims that scientists have discovered how to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic. The post which is also a screengrab in a news format has a text highlighted that read: Cocaine kills coronavirus.
Truth: The message has no scientific relevance because according to WHO, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus so far. Also, the format of the image which appears to be a news bulletin was created using certain meme generators to mislead people.
66. Claim: The latest message doing rounds states that the 52 WhatsApp group admins are detained at Dadar’s cybercrime police station for forwarding misleading information to their groups. The message also says that each group admin will face a jail term of 1 to 5 years and for securing bail, they would have to fight in criminal court. No explanation by any admin would be taken into account. Further, the message says that only a government agency is authorised to post things about the COVID-19 crisis. If the posts are found wrong or misleading, action would be taken against all the members of that group including the admin, and a lawsuit will be registered in their names according to the IT Act. The message also mentions that it is by the order by Ravi Nayak, the principal secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Truth: The message is false as there is no person named Ravi Nayak in the government to pass any such orders.
67. Claim: A WhatsApp forward has gone viral which claimed that a vaccine for coronavirus has been discovered. The viral forward also claims that the treatment for coronavirus is mentioned in an Intermediate Zoology book. The viral forward reads: “It is not a new disease as it is already mentioned in the Intermediate zoology book along with its treatment. It happens sometimes that many great scientists and doctors do not focus on lesser-known books as they are mostly busy with famous books. Book name: Zoology, Writer: Dr. Ramesh Gupta, Page No. 1072.) Friends, this is not fake news so I request you to kindly share it maximum so all coronavirus patients are treated in time.”
Truth: The message is misleading as treatments mentioned in the viral page of the book are not the treatments for coronavirus but are treatments for the common cold.
68. Claim: A number of posts shared repeatedly on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook claim one of India’s richest people Azim Premji has donated INR 50,000 crore for the COVID-19 relief.
Truth: The claim is not true as the news is one year old.
69. Claim: Amidst corona outbreak in the country, a social media message claimed that the government is distributing free masks under PM Mask Yojana. It also provided a link for the placement of orders.
Truth: PIB Fact Check has confirmed that messages on social media about ‘PM Mask Yojana’ are fake. The fact-checking handle by the government adds that there is no such scheme or link from where you can order masks free of cost.
70. Claim: A misleading forward that the genome of the virus affecting Indians is mutated is doing rounds on WhatsApp. The claim said that “there is variation in mortality and infection rate based upon the genome of the virus. Host immunity is also playing a role.”
Truth: Many known virologists and epidemiologists including India’s clinician-scientist and Executive Director of THSTI, Dr. Gangandeep Kang have retaliated to this unscientific and unproven message. In her tweet, she said, “This is appalling and misleading (unless I missed something). The 2 [two]*shared* Indian sequences are from 2 Wuhan returnees end-Jan. They are nearly identical to sequenced strains from Wuhan. Nothing special here, move on. Trust the right scientists”.
71. Claim: Multiple messages are cautioning people of consuming chicken claiming it can cause coronavirus. One such message reads: “Chicken infected from coronavirus found in Bangalore today. Kindly circulate this message and avoid consumption of chicken.”
Truth: Since the outbreak, WHO has maintained that there is no link between chicken and coronavirus. Therefore, it’s safe to eat meat provided it’s cooked properly.
72. Claim: Amid nationwide lockdown, a message is going viral on social media claiming that military lockdown is being implemented in Mumbai and Pune for ten days starting May 30. The message reads: “Just received information. Entire Mumbai and Pune will be under Military lockdown for 10 days starting from Saturday. So please stock everything. Groceries vegetables. The city is going to hand over the Army. Might Udhav Thackeray releasing Control. Only milk and medicine will be available…..please inform your Mumbai friends if one stays …… Maharashtra Govt meeting is going on and the total shutdown of Mumbai is expected to be announced at any time. All stationed n living @ Mumbai n Pune.”
Truth: Mumbai police has issued an explanation that the viral message is fake and people should not forward this message.
73. Claim: While migrants across the nation continued to return to their hometown during the lockdown, a photo showing a woman riding a bicycle with an infant wrapped on her back and a sack tugged on to the cycle’s rear seat went viral. The message was widely circulated both on social media as well as WhatsApp.
Truth: While fact-checking it was found that the viral message is fake as it is actually an old photo from Nepal which is shared as a recent one. The same image was uploaded on Pinterest in 2017.
74. Claim: WhatsApp is flooded with claims that Dettol and Lysol can kill coronavirus. Screenshots of the labels of these brands were shared in which the names of various germs and viruses killed by these disinfectants were given. Among those names, Human Coronavirus could also be seen.
Truth: In response, both the companies issued a clarification saying they haven’t tested the effectiveness of their product against the COVID-19.
75. Claim: Another message doing rounds on WhatsApp lately is about 50 healthcare staff at AIIMS testing COVID19 positive as masks, PPEs don’t meet the standard.
Truth: In a tweet, the Press Information Bureau termed it as incorrect. It said that all masks and PPEs meet Health Ministry standards. They are evaluated and certifications are verified by the AIIMS committee.
76. Claim: A screenshot widely shared on WhatsApp reads: ‘Breaking News: Weed Kills Coronavirus.’ The image that was widely shared even on social media looked like a news broadcast.
Truth: There is no scientific evidence to prove that the plant can cure COVID-19. Besides, on performing a reverse image search it was revealed that this image has no certified background of corresponding to any news, but is a meme generated from en.dopl3r.com.
77. Claim: A misleading message listing 21 preventive measures to fight COVID-19 has been falsely attributed to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi. The viral message included measures such as avoiding travelling for two years, not eating food from outside for the next year, avoiding large social gatherings, etc.
Truth: Several claims in the viral message are not scientifically proven. Besides, ICMR in its clarification has said that they have not released any such list. And, so did the spokesperson from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital who claimed the message to be fake.
78. Claim: Another fake message forwarded on WhatsApp claims that the government is providing 4000 as a scholarship for English medium students to study at home digitally. There is also a link that has been provided to avail of the scholarship. The widely circulated message further read that students from class 5 to 12 can apply.
Truth: In a tweet, the Press Information Bureau clarified that there is no such scheme under the Central Government and that the students are advised not to believe this message.
79. Claim: A message attributed to news portal Greater Kashmir claims that nine months after the bifurcation of erstwhile J&K State into two Union Territories under the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, the Government of India has shifted service matters of employees of J&K and Ladakh to Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench.
Truth: PIB claimed it to be fake news stating that the CAT bench will continue sitting in J&K to dispose off service matters of Central Government employees.
80. Claim: The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, in police custody amid the COVID outbreak has triggered wide-scale protests and fake forwards. One such video circulated on WhatsApp claimed that US President Donald Trump has fled the White House. The text of the forward reads: “Protestors already broke inside White House for the first time in American history, gunfire at the east gate and some sources said Trump fled with his family to Kansas, CIA has an emergency meeting in an hour!”
Truth: The message is fake as while fact-checking we found that the building in video bore a striking resemblance to the Ohio Statehouse and not the White House. Even though people were protesting outside the White House, it was not stormed in by protesters.
81. Claim: A WhatsApp text that lists 21 dos and don’ts on how to resume life after the lockdown has been ascribed to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi. The viral message reads, “ICMR New Delhi* Please read carefully… Some very important points.. Postpone travel abroad for 2 years, do not eat outside food for 1 year, do not go to unnecessary marriages or other similar ceremonies, etc. In the end the message reads that lockdown or no lockdown next 6 months to 12 months follow these precautions. Share this with all your family & friends.”
Truth: ICMR claimed it to be a fake message as they communicate all updates in the form of press releases on their official website and not as WhatsApp texts.
82. Claim: A viral post about coronavirus getting transmitted through fruits and vegetables has been doing rounds on the messaging app. It reads URGENT MESSAGE…. From a trusted source in Hong Kong medical lab today: “In our laboratory, we found a trace amount of the virus on the skin of fruits and vegetables after 12 hours of being touched by another customer who was infected. We recommend our staff to avoid salads. Do not eat the fruits within 48 hours of purchase, or pour some boiling water over the fruit before cutting.
Berries, apples, cucumbers, and tomatoes are the worst because some people eat the skin. This explains why the virus is spreading faster in the west than in Asia. Most Asians do not eat salad and very few people eat the skin of any fruit.
We have to assume anything that comes from outside our home within 48 hours is infected. Shoes, clothes, our hair, all food. The researchers are still trying to understand all the nuances of the virus and the pandemic it has caused.”
Truth: Can coronavirus stay on the skin of fruit especially after it is being previously touched by an infected person? The honest answer is, there’s no proof as such because the research on the novel virus is still on. However, refrain from touching your face after you touch fruits and vegetables in the market. Sanitize your hands and clean your hands properly with soap and water as soon as you reach home.
83. Claim: Leather products have developed mold because the air conditioning system in the malls in India was shut during the lockdown. The message further warns against visiting malls for at least four months. “Imagine when malls open the fungus in the ducts will fly free in the closed atmosphere of malls….. entering our respiratory system….. leading to a major infection,” the message reads.
Truth: A reverse image search showed that the images sent in the message were taken at a store in Sabah, Malaysia. Hence the pictures in the message are not from Indian malls.
84. Claim: A bogus claim doing rounds on WhatsApp states the dangers of wearing a face mask. It reads that wearing a face mask for an extended period of time could cause hypoxia, oxygen deficiency, fatigue, and loss of reflexes. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. As per the viral claim, this can happen due to breathing exhaled air over and over again, which turns into carbon dioxide and makes us feel dizzy.
Truth: According to experts wearing masks even for long hours is safe as a face mask helps in reducing person-to-person transmission of corona and other respiratory infections. However, one should ensure it is of appropriate size and shape and should not be tight. Besides, the viral message does not mention if it is about an N-95 or surgical mask.
85. Claim: Another Whatsapp forward misleading people state that the coronavirus lives on the hands for 10 minutes, so putting a sanitizer in the pocket meets the purpose of prevention. The post is attributed to UNICEF as the source.
Truth: Though it is a good practice to keep a sanitizer handy, however, there is no evidence that coronavirus stays on hands for 10 minutes. Also, the viral post is falsely attributed to UNICEF.
86. Claim: Amid coronavirus outbreak, an image of a cow with gruesome facial injuries were claimed to be from Himachal Pradesh. The message read that the incident occurred in Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district where the cow was injured reportedly when it ate wheat flour mixed with explosive substances. The WhatsApp forward sparked massive outrage across the country.
Truth: While fact-checking it was found that the image of a cow with severe facial injury had resurfaced from Rajasthan’s Raipur, where the cow was injured in 2015.
87. Claim: A forwarded message claiming that Delhi Public School is selling face masks to students for Rs 400 is widely circulated. The message is supported with photos of masks printed with the school name and logo.
Truth: Soon after the message went viral, several branches of DPS began sending messages to parents, clarifying that the institution is not involved in manufacturing or selling masks to students. The authorities also cautioned parents from falling prey to these anti-social elements who see an opportunity in such adverse circumstances.
88. Claim: Amid ongoing tension between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a picture showing dozens of tricolor-draped coffins has gone viral on social media with the claim that Chinese troops killed 75 Indian jawans in Ladakh.
Truth: While using a reverse image search, our fact-checkers found that the coffins in the picture were of CRPF jawans who lost their lives in the Pulwama terror attack last year.
89. Claim: Another lengthy message doing rounds on WhatsApp is on how Italy conquered COVID-19. The message says “IN ITALY THE CURE FOR THE CORONAVIRUS IS FINALLY FOUND. Italian doctors disobeyed the world health law WHO, not to do autopsies on the dead of the Coronavirus and they found that it is NOT a VIRUS but a BACTERIA that causes death. This causes blood clots to form and causes the death of the patient. Italy defeats the so-called Covid-19, which is nothing other than “Disseminated intravascular coagulation” (Thrombosis). And the way to combat it, that is, its cure is with the “antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants”.
Truth: Firstly, there is no specific ‘WHO health law’ that asks not to conduct autopsies on the dead coronavirus patients. In fact, there is a document that guides healthcare workers to prepare and pack the body for transfer from a patient room to an autopsy unit, mortuary, crematorium, or burial site. Secondly, the claim that coronavirus is nothing but ‘disseminated intravascular coagulation’ is misleading as not all COVID-19 deaths are caused due to thrombosis.
90. Claim: A message claiming that pricking a needle on the fingertips of a stroke victim can save his life is going viral. The message further states that if the victim’s mouth is crooked, one should pull his ears until they are red and prick them until they bleed. Supposedly, this technique will stop capillaries in the victim’s brain from bursting. As per the post, Chinese experts claim that this method is 100% efficient and it can really help you to save someone’s life from a stroke.
Truth: If experts are to be believed the dubious claim has no scientific basis. In fact, this will delay in seeking medical treatment, which is the only thing that can help.
91. Claim: Many pictures and videos going viral on social media are being related to migrants who are traveling during the lockdown. In one such viral video, some Sikhs can be seen distributing food to people from outside the train. The caption reads: “One of the best videos you will see today, which shows humanity exists in these difficult times. Sikhs in rural India run after a moving train filled with starving migrants to give them food.”
Truth: While fact-checking it was found that the video is misleading as it is old and not related to the recent lockdown.
92. Claim: With dengue adding to COVID-19 worries in India, there are several messages highlighting various remedies to keep mosquitoes away. One such old message that has resurfaced claims coconut oil can prevent dengue if applied below the knees as dengue mosquitoes cannot fly higher than knees. The message, attributed to Dr. B. Sukumar of Sri Saisudha Hospital, Tirupati further adds that one message can save many lives, so spread widely.
Truth: Dr. B Sukumar, who is falsely attributed, in his clarification has said that the message is fake as he has not given any such statement.
93. Claim: A widely shared video message claimed that people are flouting lockdown norms in a market in Delhi. The caption read: “This is yesterday’s condition in Jama Masjid Market, Delhi.”
Truth: It was found to be an old video that was uploaded on the YouTube channel. Also, it has been mentioned that the video clip is from New Anarkali, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
94. Claim: There are various theories that are linked to the origin and spread of the deadly virus. One such claim that’s doing rounds on the messaging app is: “When the mosquitoes come out everyone, WEAR BUG SPRAY OUTSIDE. I might be wrong, but I personally think that if a mosquito sucks the blood of a person with #coronavirus and then bites you, the virus could spread to you. I’m not smart, but just do it to be safe.”
Truth: The message is misleading as according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to date, there has been no information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.
95. Claim: There seems to be no end to unscientific yet magical cures for COVID-19. One such message wrongly attributed to the World Health Organisation reads: #BREAKING SIMPLE SOLUTION TO CORONA VIRUS REVEALED. God is wonderful, as deadly as Coronavirus is, it has been confirmed and tested that Palm oil can stop the spread of the virus. Experts have advised, we drink two spoonfuls of palm oil every morning to avoid the continuous spread of the virus. Plz help share and spread this important message urgently to your families, friends and loved ones. Your message can save millions of lives.
Truth: Since the outbreak started, WHO has maintained there is no cure for COVID-19 yet. So the message claiming palm oil as a corona remedy not only lacks scientific evidence but is also non-relevant.
96. Claim: Hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by sending fraudulent email and WhatsApp forwards to trick people into clicking on malicious links. One such message doing rounds on WhatsApp reads FREE INTERNET RECHARGE FROM World Health Organisation. Get 1GB data per day till 30th April. You can’t access adult content using data provided by WHO. Click Here and Get Now.
Truth: The viral message is fake as the link mentioned in the message is of a blogging website.
97. Claim: A post doing rounds on the popular messaging app reads: Italy finds a home remedy for COVID’19 / 500gms aspirin dissolved with lemon juice boiled with honey, it is taken hot.
Truth: While fact-checking we found that the Ministry of Health, Italy, has made no reference to the purported home remedy as stated in the viral post.
98. Claim: Amid lockdown, many old pictures are resurfacing and getting viral as part of lockdown. One such example is the viral post in which some parrots can be seen feeding on grains bag. The caption read: “One cannot witness such things in life which are being witnessed during the lockdown.”
Truth: The picture message was posted originally on Nature Forever Society Blog on March 15, 2014. Thus, the message is fake and is not related to the lockdown.
99. Claim: Another viral message likely to create panic among recipients reads: “There was never a COVID-19!!! Read this! Coronavirus is fake! It was a huge cover-up to allow the deployment of 5G network towers, which are the real cause of virus deaths, they are releasing extreme amounts of radiation to your body through phone signal!
Truth: The forwarded message has no scientific relevance as to date, no adverse health effects by mobile phone use have been established.
100. Claim: Here’s another misleading message on corona cure: “Quinine found in tonic water along with 50-100mg of zinc daily will kill COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is the synthetic version of Quinine. Drink some freshly squeezed lemon juice with your tonic water. You’ll be GOLDEN.”
Truth: The claim is not true as Quinine has to be given to a patient in a particular dose and under the doctor’s prescription only. In tonic water, the required dose is not present to approach the similar effect of the drug. So, the message is misleading.