COVID-19, or rather it’s agent SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV started causing mass uproars soon after its initial discovery, and there are still many myths surrounding the novel coronavirus (we use the word novel, as many coronaviruses have already been known for at least a century). These misconceptions cause unnecessary mass confusion and damages, and in some cases even endanger lives.
The following is a list of the most popular conspiracy theories, which are baseless and in no way true:
- The virus was made in a Chinese research laboratory as a bioweapon, but accidentally escaped.
- The virus was made in an American laboratory as a bioweapon and tested in China, but somehow spiralled out of control.
- The virus was created by a foundation led by Bill Gates, the aim of which is to implant chips into every person on Earth, which could then be used by a select elite to control us.
- The virus was created by secret service agencies, the aim of which is to exterminate specific groups of people (according to race, religion, age, …). The reason for this is supposed economic or political gain.
- Already before the pandemic was announced, many politicians, scientists and populists started spreading baseless claims. Some suggested that the novel coronavirus doesn’t attack people of color, some that Indians are immune, others that it’s especially deadly to Persians, …
- When the first countries started closing down airports and borders, establishing quarantines, limiting movement and other means of slowing the spread of the virus, other states decided to more or less let the virus run free, as this would allow faster infection of a large enough percentage of the population, for the virus to stop spreading due to herd immunity. Sadly we still do not have enough evidence to say that we cannot contract the disease twice (and thus spread the infection further). There are is a growing number of patients who were confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, recovered (tested negative multiple times) and were then reconfirmed positive.
Because the virus is mutating, it is possible that we fall sick from COVID-19 multiple times. Furthermore, we can also draw parallels with other respiratory tract infections – we can get the cold many times, …
- The formation of antibodies after a COVID-19 infection guarantees us immunity from reinfection and makes us unable to spread the disease further.
Antibodies do form because of infections, however, after recuperating, no matter the route the virus took, the concentration of antibodies decreases with time. At this point we do not know, whether this means that we can fall ill again in a few weeks, months, or years, or whether it is enough for our body to know how to make the antibodies for us to be protected when we reencounter the virus.
Routes of transmission
- The virus is carried by bats. COVID-19 might have, in a form similar to its current self, first been found in bats, however the current general consensus in the scientific community is that there had to have been an additional animal as an intermediate vessle. Which one that might have been, we do not know. Moreover, it seems extremely unlikely that the virus jumped onto humans via bat soup.
- SARS-CoV-2 is carried by mosquitos. We have yet to find any evidence for this. There is also no evidence that any other insects might be vectors. Theoretically this could be possible, however, so far all transmissions so far have been from human to human.
- The virus is airborne. This is only partially correct. The novel coronavirus is transmitted via bodily fluid droplets, such as saliva, or phlegm. A typical example of transmission would be coughing or sneezing, where the infected disperses tiny, virus containing droplets into their surroundings by coughing/sneezing. If these droplets come into contact with with a healthy person they may (although not necessarily) contract the disease. The more infective droplets we emit or intake, the higher the chances for transmission to occur. It can also be transmitted in the form of aerosols.
It is also factual, that the virus may spread via contact with surfaces with infective droplets (shopping carts in malls are a well known example, however, we often neglect the fact that we shouldn’t share pens, or lick our fingers when flipping through pages, which often happens in schools, hospitals or various offices).
- The virus does not spread in open spaces. Although the concentration of viral particles in the air rapidly declines due to sufficient airflow (and so does the risk of infection), mass gatherings such as concerts still pose a significant risk. Multiple outbreaks have, in fact been connected to mass gatherings, where the people present swap fluid droplets, willingly or not.
- The virus only spreads in cold weather. This is a common misconception, backed by the fact that we are more likely to get a respiratory tract infection in wintertime. The reason doesn’t lie in the temperature, but longer times spent inside, increasing the chances of infection.
- The novel coronavirus can easily be destroyed with disinfectant. This is true. A few seconds after the virus makes contact with disinfectant, it gets neutralised, however, we cannot simply inject the disinfectant into a person. Doing this would kill the patient much sooner than reducing the viral activity.
- The novel coronavirus decays under UV light. This is also true, however, UV light cannot penetrate into the body of a patient. Albeit, an infective surface (like a park bench) will be safe much sooner if it is in direct sunlight, as opposed to surfaces in the shade. How soon this happens depends on numerous factors (viral load, light intensity, temperature, …). In any case the safest thing to do is to not touch our face with our hands after touching a suspicious surface.
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine cure COVID-19 patients. Both compounds have been used in the fight against malaria for the better part of a century. In some parts of the world they are used (in conjunction with other drugs) to treat COVID-19. The results so far have been mixed, so we cannot say with certainty that they are cures for novel coronavirus infections.