As the world grapples with an unprecedented health crisis, it is now more important than ever to ensure that the information we share is accurate and fact-based. Fake news and misinformation seem to be spreading as fast and as far as the virus itself, infecting our newsfeeds and timelines at this crucial moment.
For this reason, RMIT ABC Fact Check has launched CoronaCheck, an email newsletter in which we will bring you the latest in fact-checking from around the world in relation to the coronavirus.
You can read the latest edition below, and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.
CoronaCheck issue 3
Thank you to the many readers who have sent emails alerting us to a variety of claims regarding the coronavirus.
The claim that we have received most emails about relates to ibuprofen and whether it has an adverse affect on people who contract COVID-19, so that’s where we begin this edition of the newsletter.
We also take a look at how the virus affects our furry friends and feature an RMIT ABC Fact Check fact file on workers without paid leave.
This newsletter draws on our own resources and those of our colleagues within the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), of which RMIT ABC Fact Check is a member.
Ibuprofen and the virus
Many people have sent us versions of a text claiming that “information from Vienna’s laboratory studying COVID-19” suggests that the “vast majority” of people dying from coronavirus have ibuprofen in their systems.
Fact checkers have been unable to find a basis for this claim, and the Medical University of Vienna has called it “fake news”.
Additionally, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health, which is also cited in the post as advising against ibuprofen, told the ABC, the hospital had not issued advice to that effect “at all”.
Some experts noted, however, that ibuprofen could compromise the body’s immune response.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration says it is aware of anecdotal reports around ibuprofen and coronavirus and will continue to monitor the issue.
“We have investigated this safety concern and found that there is currently no published peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support a direct link between use of ibuprofen and more severe infection with COVID-19.”
Britain’s National Health Service currently recommends taking paracetamol unless a person has been instructed by their doctor that paracetamol is unsuitable for them. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says it “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen”.
Workers without paid leave
Images reminiscent of the Great Depression dominated the media in the past week, with newly unemployed Australians queuing outside Centrelink offices in a bid to access welfare payments.
Many were likely to be workers without paid leave entitlements, such as casuals and the self-employed. RMIT ABC Fact Check examined the issue of insecure work in a fact file published this week.
We found that combining the estimated number of self-employed workers with those in casual employment suggests as many as 4.8 million Australian workers (37% of the national workforce) did not have access to paid leave entitlements in the lead-up to the coronavirus outbreak.
Many of us stuck at home are taking comfort in the fact that we get to spend more time with our favourite four-legged friends.
Some people have expressed concern, however, that our pets may be able to pass on the coronavirus to humans.
A number of fact checks — by our IFCN colleagues at USA Today, Africa Check, PolitiFact and Full Fact, among others — found that while at least one dog did test “weak positive” for coronavirus in Hong Kong, there were questions over the validity of the test and no evidence pets could transmit the virus to humans.
A COVID-19 vaccine
Scientists around the world, including researchers at the University of Queensland, are hard at work on a COVID-19 vaccine.
But posts shared on social media claiming a vaccine is ready for use are false, according to fact checkers at Full Fact and Reuters. The image included in the posts, which appears to show a packaged vaccine, is actually a photo of a COVID-19 testing kit.
The Department of Health says that, according to the WHO, a publicly available vaccine is 18 months away.
From Washington, D.C.
March 24 was a busy day for US President Donald Trump, who spent much of his time in front of the camera appearing in a Fox News “virtual town hall”, a Fox News interview, and in a televised daily coronavirus task force briefing.
IFCN-accredited fact checkers at The Washington Post ran the rule over the president’s entire day, and found that of the 11 claims made by Trump that they checked, most were either false or misleading.
Take, for example, his claim that it was his “instinct” that led him to block people coming into the US from China, and that “almost everybody” was against the idea.
The Post found this narrative conflicted with reports of how the decision was reached and who was on board (staff from the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Department, for instance), and that the president was reluctant when the idea was first presented to him.
Sites we recommend
- The Australian government’s official page
- The Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease. Emergencies (APPRISE)
- Johns Hopkins University
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Our World In Data