A very minor downgrade in the seriousness of Covid-19 by the UK government has prompted conspiracy theorists to spread false information about the virus online.
An official government web page on coronavirus was recently updated to say that the disease was no longer considered a 'high consequence infectious disease.'
The virus was considered to be as such in January but as of 19 March it was changed. A post written by Public Health England on GOV.UK reads:
As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.
However, that doesn't mean that the virus is no longer deadly and shouldn't be treated with extreme caution. Nor should it be seen as an excuse to end social distancing measures.
Unfortunately, some conspiracy theorist are trying to use this very small change in Covid-19's status to spread misinformation around the internet.
A report by BuzzFeed shows that certain Facebook groups with names, like "Chemtrails Global Skywatch",''Energy Therapy", and "Exposing The New World Order," as well as infamous individuals like David Icke have claimed this web page is proof that governments are trying to exert a sense of power over the public.
One post, which was received more than 2 million likes, read:
“If Covid-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID), at least in the UK, according to the UK government's own website, why do we have a continuous fear-based narrative from the MAINSTREAM MEDIA that things will ONLY GET WORSE?”
BuzzFeed reports that right-wing websites in the US such as The Daily Wire and The Washington Times have also picked up on the theory and run stories on their respective websites, while the information is also said to have popped up on anti-vaccination Facebook groups in both the UK and the US.
That being said, anyone who shared this misleading information or believed it to be true would have been quickly debunked if they had simply carried on reading the webpage, which explains that the government's HCID designation is for diseases, or pathogens, like Ebola, Mers and Sars, which are considered to be much more deadly.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, Professor Brendan Wren of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said:
[Coronavirus is] highly transmissible between humans as demonstrated by the speed of the pandemic, but it isn’t the most deadly of pathogens in terms of the infectious dose required to be lethal.
Only 1 per cent of infected humans succumb to the infection. This compares to, for example, 11 per cent for SARS1 and 50 per cent for Ebola. This slight downgrading doesn’t detract from the seriousness of Covid-19 infection.
This slight change is based purely on scientific classifications and clearly doesn't mean that coronavirus is any less dangerous than what has previously been reported by the government.
So, next time you see anything on social media claiming that the virus is no longer a serious matter do a bit of research and think before you share anything.