Coronavirus

  • No Evidence to Suggest Penis Enlargement A Covid-19 Vaccine Side Effect

    CLAIM: A photo circulating and rumours making rounds suggest the COVID-19 vaccine leads to penis pnlargement.

    FALSE. Whilst there have been notable side-effects associated with the dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine, none of those side-effects has proven or led to any case of penis enlargement as claimed in the photo that is circulating on social media.

    Full Text

    The photo purporting to be breaking news from a news agency reads, “COVID-19 Vaccine enlarges Penis.” This has drawn attention from mostly young men, and the author of this article was privy to one of the discussions and had access to the photo following the conversation he heard amongst young men at a public event. The discussion attracted the attention of many and most of them confirmed to have seen the photo circulating on social media especially WhatsApp.

    This photo with the flamboyant claim is just one of the many backlashes to have emerged from the announcement of a clinically trusted COVID-19 vaccine in a much shorter time than anticipated. The Pfizer Covid Vaccine has already been applied to the most vulnerable group of people to the pandemic – frontline health workers in the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Verification

    The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has gone through the required clinical trial that was presented to over 44,000 participants and scored over 95% in effectiveness and safety. This did not, however, clear the vaccine of potential side effects, particularly that the first dosage on British health workers did come with reactionary side-effects. The side effects triggered by histories of allergic reactions were reported in this New York Times article. But of all the side reactions to the vaccine so far, nothing like penis enlargement has been reported.

    The Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine, like any other vaccine, is delivered as a shot in the arm and notable side effects have been headaches, fatigue, chills and muscle pain. The penis enlargement claim, from all indications, has proven to be baseless for lack of medical or scientific backing.

    For further clarifications, Dubawa checked the other COVID-19 Vaccine, Moderna vaccine, which has very recently received emergency approval. Its clinical test has shown its effectiveness to be almost as high as that of the Pfizer vaccine. It was first delivered to top health officials like Dr Fauci on the 22 December 2020 and so far, no such claim has been associated with it.

    Patrick Semansky / AFP – Getty Images

    Secondly, the photo circulating has no inscription or logo of any particular brand that raises red flags. It further claimed a 23% increase in penis size relating it to a study which was never explained in detail as to who or what organization conducted the study and how they reached such a conclusion on a vaccine that is less than a month old. These misconceptions and red-flags question the veracity of such claims and expose its groundlessness.

    Conclusion

    The claim of penis enlargement related to the COVID-19 vaccine is unfounded and therefore misleading. No major side effect has been identified, apart from cases of patients with histories of allergic reactions and none of such effects is related to penis enlargement.

  • Viral video suggesting Rawlings was seen at his mother’s funeral without observing COVID-19 protocols is dated

    Rawlings was seen during his mother’s funeral with no mask and no social distancing.

    The video which the claim references is an old video from 2016 where Rawlings and his wife attended an Achimota School event. 

    Full text:

    News of the death of former president of Ghana, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, was announced by President Akufo-Addo last week. 

    While Akufo-Addo only stated that the former president’s passing was due to a short illness, other reports are suggesting that the former president died from COVID-19. It is on this basis that information surfacing the media space state freely that the former president was seen at his mother’s funeral without observing COVID-19 protocols.

    One of such claims accompanied by a video of Rawlings dancing has circulated on WhatsApp. 

    The Whatsapp message reads:

    ‘’Check out the above. Rawlings is seen above during his mother’s funeral with no mask and no social distancing. A week later was admitted for Covid-19 and now Requiem for him. Please don’t joke; observe all Covid 19 protocols. Stay alive!’’

    Verification:

    In the 35-second video that is associated with the claim, it is observed that Rawlings was wearing a black and white Achimota School print shirt together with his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and not a funeral cloth as expected.

    Further checks show that the video was reported four years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the news report dated 8 March 2016, it proves to be a video of Rawlings dancing Agbadza at Achimota School’s 1966/67 year group’s 50th anniversary celebration. 

    Additionally, on the occasion of Rawling’s mother’s funeral on the 24 October 2020, Rawlings was seen in a black shirt (not in a white or black and white shirt) and he was seen wearing a black mask

    Conclusion:

    The claim that Rawlings was seen in a video during his mother’s funeral with no mask and no social distancing is false. The video associated with the claim is an old video from 2016 before the COVID-19 pandemic, where the late former president and his wife attended a 1966/67 Achimota School year group 50th anniversary event. The video has no link with Rawlings’ mother’s funeral which happened last month.

  • NDC 2020 Manifesto Launch: Mahama’s Introductory Speech Fact-checked

    Ahead of the 2020 elections in December, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) launched their manifesto, the ‘People’s Manifesto’ on Monday, 7 September 2020.

    At the launch, the presidential candidate of the party, John Dramani Mahama, in his introductory speech (1:59:22- 2:06:45 of the recorded Facebook live video) was heard making a number of claims centred mainly on the economic state of Ghana and on a government’s COVID-19 management. 

    A transcript of Mahama’s speech which captures the context in which the identified claims were made reads:

    “…In many cases, countries considered relatively less advanced with smaller economies are emerging more resilient and less affected by the global shocks than some countries that are considered advanced. The case of Vietnam, a relatively smaller country bordering China, and therefore closer to the original source of the Coronavirus pandemic has survived much better with relatively less infections and deaths than known global superpowers...Excessive borrowing over the last four years has placed Ghana in a high debt risk category, with absolutely nothing to show for it…”

    Consequently, Dubawa accessed the available facts concerning some identified claims, in producing its attendant verdicts.

    Claim 1: Vietnam has survived the Coronavirus pandemic much better with relatively lesser infections and deaths than known global superpowers

    Verdict: Reports from the WHO, CDC, COVID-19 data sites and media show that Vietnam has recorded relatively lesser infections and deaths compared to the known global superpowers.

    The countries largely referred to as the global superpowers are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council namely the United States of America (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Russian Federation, China and France.

    Dubawa accessed the statistics for the population, confirmed cases/infections and deaths as at 7 September 2020, recorded for Vietnam, US, UK, Russian Federation, China and France tabulated below:

    CountryPopulationConfirmed casesDeaths
    Vietnam97,338,5791,04935
    US331,394,2216,189,488187,541
    UK67,957,887347,15641,551
    Russian Federation145,946,9921,030,69017,871
    China1,440,441,98590,5514,737
    France65,302,500307,47630,547
    Source: 
    Population: Worldometer
    Confirmed case & deaths: WHO

    Comparatively, from the tabulated statistics, Vietnam, which has a population higher than the UK and France, has recorded smaller rates of infection and death than the two countries.

    Vietnam is reported to have confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 23 January 2020, not long after the outbreak in Wuhan, and yet, there were no reported Covid-19 deaths until July 31, 2020. 

    Moreso, the Vietnam Coronavirus tracker also reveals that out of the 1,059 confirmed cases, there have been 902 Covid-19 recoveries in Vietnam, with no critical cases treated in Intensive Care Unit and an 84% recovery rate of the total cases.

    In June 2020, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) described Vietnam’s response to controlling the pandemic as an excellent credit to the country’s leadership strategies.

    “Vietnam has excelled in controlling COVID-19 through strong leadership and coordination, rapid case detection and isolation, aggressive contact tracing, and strict quarantine measures,” the CDC said.

    Media sites such as the BBC, the Star and publications such as the Policy Forum have also reported on Vietnam’s proven effective response to the pandemic.

    Claim 2: Excessive borrowing over the last four years has placed Ghana in a high debt risk category

    Verdict: Even though Ghana is in high-risk debt distress category due to excessive borrowing, it is not as a result of events of the last four years. Ghana has been in this category since 2015 when an IMF and World Bank report published in April 2015 concluded Ghana to be so on account of breaches in the debt-service to revenue ratio.

    Two documents were accessed to ascertain this claim.

    The first document titled Joint Ghana World Bank-IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis document dated December 2019, an analysis of Ghana’s joint bank-fund sustainability, shows that Ghana’s risk of external debt distress and overall risk of debt distress were truly both high.

    “External and overall debt are at high risk of debt distress… Nonetheless, debt is assessed as sustainable thanks to favourable market access, the authorities’ commitment to macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline, and the potential for steeper than assumed fiscal consolidation. In the short term, fiscal discipline is necessary to ensure debt sustainability and maintain market confidence, but external factors, including worsening global risk sentiment, still pose significant risks,” the IMF document reads.

    However, Mahama’s assertion that this is a result of excessive borrowing specifically from over the last four years is inaccurate as we found Ghana’s categorisation by the IMF was since 2015. 

    An IMF Ghana report on the ‘Request For A Three-Year Arrangement Under The Extended Credit Facility’ (pg13&14) published in April 2015 also judged Ghana’s debt at a high risk distress. 

    “The Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) concludes that Ghana is at a high risk of debt distress, on account of breaches in the debt-service to revenue ratio over 2015–17 and after 2021. The authorities are committed to limit their borrowing plans to loans with a minimum grant element of 35 per cent, with possible exceptions in line with the debt limits policy… Bank of Ghana gross financing to the budget in 2015 will be limited to 5 per cent of previous year’s revenue, using only marketable financial instruments”, the report read.

    In 2015, the IMF stated in the report that Ghana’s public debt continued to rise at an unsustainable pace, however, in the 2019 report, the IMF judged Ghana’s debt as sustainable. 

    Another document titled, The fall and rise of Ghana’s debt jointly published by the Integrated Social Development Centre Ghana, Jubilee Debt Campaign UK, SEND Ghana, VAZOBA Ghana, All-Afrikan Networking Community Link for International Development, Kilombo Ghana and Abibimman Foundation Ghana in October 2016 was accessed to verify the claim. 

    The document, in analysing how Ghana had at the time, ‘fallen in a new debt trap’, also shows that Ghana was categorised as a high risk of debt distress by the World Bank in 2015.

    “In April 2014 Ghana was assessed as at moderate risk of debt distress but ‘approaching high-risk levels’. At the next review in March 2015 this changed to being confirmed as at “high risk of debt distress”. Yet, seven months later in October 2015, the World Bank broke its own rules based on its own assessment by giving a guarantee for (high-cost) bonds for a country rated as at high risk of debt distress,” the document reads

    Therefore, even though Ghana is in a high risk of debt distress category due to excessive borrowing, it is not a matter of the last four years as Mahama claimed. Ghana has been in this category since 2015 when an IMF and World Bank report published in April 2015 concluded Ghana to be so on account of breaches in the debt-service to revenue ratio.

    Conclusion

    Conclusively, from the claims identified in Mahama’s introductory speech at the NDC Manifesto launch 2020, one was true and another was false.

  • UPDATED: Fact-checking Dr Okoe Boye on Cost of Covid-19 Testing In Other Countries: A blend of true and false claims

    On Sunday, President Akufo Addo addressed the nation on measures taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his address, the President announced the re-opening of Ghana’s air borders on September 1 and outlined a number of measures. Among the measures, passengers who enter the country are required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test and are mandated to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival at the Kotoka International Airport.  

    The next day, the government convened a press briefing to provide further information about the arrangements. At that press briefing, the deputy health minister, Dr Bernard Okoe Boye, justified the $150 mandatory COVID-19 test to be done at the airport by making comparisons with what pertains in other countries (40:32 – 42:25). 

    “When you go to a place like Zimbabwe, you will pay about $210 for the test. In China, you will pay about $150 for the test and they are doing PCR which is a very good test that identifies the virus itself …Now when you go to Togo here, you will pay about 150 euros, not dollars. In fact, I just got the figures for Nigeria – you will pay about $130 and not only that, you need to go to a hotel and wait for results, which can be one or two nights…,” Dr Oko Boye said.

    The verification of the claims was limited to the specific countries mentioned by the deputy health minister. Before anything, it is important to provide some explanation about COVID-19 testing.

    Types of COVID-19 tests around the world

    Tests for COVID-19 are categorized into three types namely PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, antigen test and antibody (serology) test. PCR is a test that looks for bits of the SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes the COVID-19 in the nose and other areas of the respiratory tract. It determines if a person has an active infection. 

    Antigen test looks for pieces of the protein that constitutes the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine if a person has an active infection. An antibody test is a serological test that looks for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in the blood to determine if there has been a past infection. 

    Although both PCR and Antigen tests determine if there’s an active infection of the COVID-19, PCR is more expensive and takes more time than the antigen test. 

    Again PCR tests are typically highly accurate and usually do not need to be repeated.  For Antigen tests, positive results are usually highly accurate but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test. The PCR test is presently considered the “gold standard” for clinical diagnostic detection of SARS-CoV-2” 

    Image  source: fda.gov

    A number of countries, Iceland, France, Germany, and Russia, including are conducting COVID-19 testing at airports.

    Ghana’s testing regime

    Travellers arriving into Ghana since the resumption of passenger flights on September 1 are required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken not more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure from countries. 

    On arrival, all passengers are to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing. This test according to Dr Okoe Boye should not last more than 30 minutes and will come at a cost of $150 to be borne by the passenger. The type of testing being done at the Kotoka International Airport is the antigen test. 

    Government officials say the amount of $150 was reached upon a careful analysis of what happens elsewhere in other countries. In defending the price, the Dr Okoe Boye mentioned Zimbabwe, China, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. 

    We sought to verify the costs for tests in these countries as mentioned by the Deputy Health Minister.

    Claim 1: “Now when you go to Togo here, you will pay about 150 euros, not dollars.

    Verdict: False

    Togo confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 on March 6 2020. As of September 2, 2020, the Africa Center for Disease Control reported that the country had 1416 total confirmed cases, 28 deaths and 1035 recoveries. 

    The government of Togo announced the closure of all borders on Friday, March 20, 2020. All non-essential inbound and outbound traffic and travel was prohibited per that order with only cargo allowed into the country. 

    International and domestic flights resumed in Togo on August 1, 2020, with the announcement of COVID-19 protocols.

    First, all travellers both departing and arriving are mandated to register and fill an online traveller declaration form on the government’s website. Any traveller departing from Lomé must undergo a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before departure.

    A laboratory dedicated to screening passengers departing from Lomé is set up in the enclosure of the old terminal of Gnassingbé Eyadema International Airport (AIGE) for COVID-19 screening tests. Again, any passenger entering Lome has to present a negative PCR test dating less than 5 days before boarding. 

    Upon arrival, the passenger is subjected to another PCR test. For this purpose, they must complete the online form available and pay the cost of the said test before their departure. The on-site PCR test that passengers undergo at the airport upon arrival is CFA 40,000 which is equivalent to $72 US and approximately £55.

    All travellers must install TOGO SAFE, a contact tracing application, upon arrival at the Lomé Airport. It is mandatory for the app to remain activated for at least 30 days. Passengers who do not install the app are quarantined in a containment facility provided by the government for at least 14 days. 

    The cost of the quarantine is borne by the traveller. Test results arrive within 24 hours. Those with positive test results will be required to self-isolate either at home or at a government facility until they test negative. 

    From the foregoing facts, we find the claim made by the Deputy Health Minister that passengers pay 150 euros for the test false. The cost of the on-site PCR test done at Lomé Airport is less than 100.

    Claim 2: When you go to a place like Zimbabwe, you will pay about $210 for the test.

    Verdict: False

    Zimbabwe reported its first case of the novel coronavirus on 21st March 2020. It now has a cumulative case count of 6559 cases, deaths stand at 203 while 243 persons have recovered from the COVID-19.

    On Monday, March 24, 2020, Zimbabwe’s President, Emerson Mnangagwa, announced the closure of the country’s borders to all human traffic except for returning residents and cargo. He announced then that returning residents will be subjected to strict screening procedures including a 21 day self-quarantine. 

    At the moment, Zimbabwe is closed for passenger flights. Only Zimbabwean nationals are allowed into the country. 

    Zimbabwe’s Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa says “the plan is to start with the resumption of domestic flights and then move to international flights” adding that “Government is finalizing on modalities for the reopening of airports to support the resumption of the tourism sector.” 

    Since Zimbabwe’s air borders are still not opened for international flights, protocols only relate to returning citizens. 

    We checked with Zimbabwe’s Health Ministry about COVID-19 arrangements for returning citizens. An official from the Epidemiology and Disease Control(EDC) department told Starr Fm’s correspondent in Zimbabwe that citizens who arrive are to be tested. The official, however, added that government facilities do not have the capacity to test at the moment so travellers are referred to private centres to do the test. The cost of the test is therefore dependent on the institution where the test is done. 

    The Health Ministry says it is not aware that travellers are charged $210 to take the COVID-19 test at these private centres although in the past some persons have taken the test at a cost of $65.

    The EDC official says travellers can either be quarantined at government institutions or private institutions. We did an online search about private institutions offering COVID-19 packages, below is the one from the Bronte, The Garden Hotel, Harare, Zimbabwe.

    We therefore rate this claim false.

    Claim 3:  ‘For Nigeria, you will pay about $130 for the PCR test and not only that, you need to go to a hotel and wait for results, which can be one or two nights…’

    Verdict: True

    During a media briefing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, Chairman of the  Presidential Task Force(PTF), Boss Mustapha, announced that Nigeria’s borders will open to air passengers on September 5.

    As stated at the briefing, all travellers to Nigeria must have tested negative within 96 hours of departure. 

    “All intending travellers to Nigeria must have tested NEGATIVE for COVID-19 by PCR in the country of departure pre-boarding. The PCR test MUST be within 96 hours before departure and preferably within 72 hours pre-boarding. For certain countries, COVID-19 PCR tests will only be acceptable from specified laboratories.”

    All persons intending to travel into the country are to register on the Nigerian International Travel Portal online via https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng/onboarding/homepage.

    Travellers must again repeat the PCR test upon arrival in Nigeria on the 7th day of arrival in Nigeria.

    According to the National Center for Disease Control ( NCDC) in Nigeria, a traveller, upon arrival in Nigeria is to undertake a COVID-19 test for which the individual will pay independently. 

    Dubawa was told by NCDC officials that an amount of ₦50,000  is to be paid to have the PCR test conducted upon arrival in either Lagos or Abuja airport. This is equivalent to about $129.30.

    Some private laboratories however charge between ₦40,000 to ₦50,000. 

    Claim 4: In Benin, you pay €150 for the PCR test.

    Verdict: True. 

    A COVID-19 testing centre has been set up at the main airport in Cotonou, Benin’s capital. All travellers to Benin are to be subjected to a mandatory PCR test upon arrival at a designated government site. The cost of the test is in two forms, normal service and premium service.

    With the normal service, passengers are to pay 100,000 FCFA (an equivalent of about $165) which covers the test on departure and on arrival and 14 days after arrival in Benin.  This is equivalent to €152.45.

    For the premium service, passengers pay 125,000 FCFA (equivalent to190.56) for their test on departure from and return to Cotonou. For this service, passengers are guaranteed ease and speed in sample collection, a 6-hour turnaround time for the results, and service at a VIP center. Travellers, upon having their samples taken, may be directed to self-quarantine while waiting for their results.

    Should a passenger be found positive of COVID-19, all other tests that are carried out are free of charge and may be subject to government-mandated isolation measures. However, if the individual requires premium service, an additional 25,000 FCFA is charged.

    All these charges are at the passenger’s expense.

    Claim 1: In China, you will pay about $150 for the PCR test.

    Verdict:  False.

    According to our sources at Taiwan Fact-checking Center, the cost for PCR test in China is CHY 120 which is equivalent to $18. Travellers arriving in the country are to take the test and then proceed on a 14-day quarantine in specific hotels. The hotels cost about CNY 350, equivalent to $51 daily but vary depending on the city and hotel. Meals are also available at the travellers’ expense. Travellers have the option of taking a second test in the last few days of quarantine.

    Further, information from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the General Administration of Customs indicate that passengers are required to provide evidence of a negative test result before boarding a flight to China. 

    In order to ensure the health and safety of international travel and reduce the risk of cross-border transmission of the epidemic, passengers on flights coming to China will be boarded with a negative certificate of the new coronavirus nucleic acid test,’ a joint statement reads.

    ‘Chinese and foreign passengers who come to China by flight shall complete the nucleic acid test within 5 days before boarding. Testing should be carried out in institutions designated or recognized by Chinese embassies and consulates abroad.

    Passengers of foreign nationality shall apply to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate for a declaration of health status with a negative nucleic acid test certificate,it added.

    This then implies that prices may vary depending on the health centre the individual may test at. It is, therefore, unlikely to have the same price across all test centres or health institutions.

    The cost of the COVID-19 nucleic acid test (NAT), similar to what is being called the PCR test, was in April relatively cheaper than in other countries. In April, a test cost between $22 to $37 in China but was about $500 to $3,000 in many other countries. 

    The reason for this disparity, according to a study, includes the fact that

    1. China has adequate production capacity and supply of test reagents.
    2. The Chinese government adopted a policy of blending government-guided prices with market-regulated prices which keeps the pricing low and standardized. 
    3. Logistics companies and third-party testing institutes provided great support, reducing other added costs of the testing reagents. For instance, some companies provided free transportation services to ensure the smooth flow of medical supplies.

    Dubawa has reached out to Chinese authorities for an official statement regarding test charges for travellers and will update this report once information is made available.

    ………………

    This fact-check was originally published by StarrFmfactchecker but has been edited and updated by Dubawa 

  • Nexus between Information Disorder and Media Framing of the Covid-19 Pandemic

    Background

    The information ecology has in the recent past been inundated with materials that have often proven to be either misleading or completely false after subjecting such information to thorough scrutiny.

    The preponderance of such information has not only become widespread but has also largely polluted the information ecosystem, putting the end receivers of information at risk of taking actions that may be injurious to their person or the greater society.

    These misrepresented facts, commonly termed ‘fake news’ (Shu et al, 2018), manifest in forms such as satire, false context, imposter content, manipulated content, false connection, leaks and hate speech on both traditional and social media platforms (Wardle & Derakhshan, 2017).

    A more generic terminology called information disorder, as proposed by Wardle & Derakhshan, is now widely accepted in deconstructing and unpacking the large swath of contortion in the information ecosystem. The concept categorizes and contextualizes misrepresented facts into three broader scopes – dis-information, misinformation, and mal-information 

    The taxonomy explains dis-information as false information that is knowingly shared with an intent to harm and misinformation as false information shared without the intent to harm. Mal-information, on the other hand, refers to the use of true information with the intent to harm.

    At the core of information disorder is the treatment of messages, news, and facts in media spaces; and the expanse of information disorder typology has further enabled the deconstruction of media messages for researchers to better understand the import of disseminated information. Often, treatment of the media messages is explained within the context of media framing.

    Nonetheless, how media messages are presented or framed for audience consumption and the angle or perspective from which a news story is told is not always the exact representation of reality but rather a reconstruction from various angles of a small section of reality. 

    Framing of messages and images in the media in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus has reignited the debate on how the media treat and represent reality. Thus, in the coverage of the COVID -19 pandemic, the media, more often than not, presents reality from the perspective from which they observe events and unfolding actions in society (Critical Media Review, 2015). 

    Therefore, the dichotomy between information disorder and framing of media messages is widely amplified in the coverage of the COVID–19 pandemic  (UNDP, 2020). In most cases, the treatment of stories on the pandemic is characterized by an avalanche of misleading information presented on media platforms and the frames into which these media messages are presented accentuate the thematic underpinnings that constitute information disorder.

    An evaluation of selected media messages is analyzed in this text to highlight how media framing of the pandemic is laden with paradigms spawned by constructs of information disorder. A postmodern perspective in assessing information is applied in evaluating the various media frames and situating them within the broader spectrum of information disorder.

    Media Framing of the Pandemic 

    Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus diseases a pandemic, media organizations and media platforms have been giving attention to all aspects of the pandemic. Key among them are media assertions of a found cure or a supposed cure for the disease that is causing a global meltdown and killing tens of thousands of individuals across continents.

    In Ghana, for example, the first two cases of infection from the virus were reported on March 12, 2020. Since then, the cases have spiralled and have crossed the 40,000 marks, causing over 200 deaths. The state of confusion that the virus has thrown the world into has made all persons edgy and are readily clutching onto any information without verification, so long as it will help save them from the ravaging impact of the virus. In telling their story, the media has given varied slants to the perspectives from which it reports on the COVID-19 pandemic. It ranges from stigmatization, fear peddling, false hope to pseudo-science.

    Stigmatization 

    The novel coronavirus disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei Province with a population of 11 million, after an outbreak of pneumonia without an obvious cause. The virus has now spread to over 200 countries and territories across the globe, and was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020 ( Zhu, Wei, & Niu, 2020).

    Headlines across the media spectrum have been buzzing with stories on the pandemic. However, the visibility given to the pandemic is sometimes diluted with information that is quite worrying. Media headlines such as one attributed to the President of the United States of America calling the virus the ‘Chinese Virus’ and another newspaper headline ‘coronavirus made in china’ were but a few of the reports that did not only stoke the flames of stigmatization against the Chinese but also portrayed china as the cause of the world’s woes.

    Though it is factually correct to trace the origin of the pandemic to homeland China, a further association and renaming of the pandemic as a Chinese virus or a virus made in China is a subtle stigmatization of the People’s Republic of China as carriers of the virus. In Ghana and some other parts of the world, some medical equipment from China were either received reluctantly or rejected outrightly, in fear that since they are coming from China, they may have been compromised. This phenomenon, also amplified by newspapers on their front pages is a typical example of mal-information within the information disorder spectrum – though it is true that the origin of the virus can be traced to China, media slants to the publications soiled the image of the country in the eyes of the world at large.

    Fear peddling

    Media reportage on the pandemic again suggested strongly that the aged are most at risk when they contract the virus to the extent that death appears inevitable. This representation in the media on one hand emboldens the youth to disregard safety protocols and on the other hand creates fear in persons in the 65 and above age bracket.

    The overarching effect of such media representations has reinforced a sense of security for one generation and a no hope situation for the other in the face of the ravaging effect of the pandemic. Though evidence from many countries has suggested that the aged fell quickly to the virus, it was not exclusively a risk prone situation only to the oldies. Some media reports showed that children and the youth were also vulnerable to the virus, thus eventually causing their deaths. In Ghana, some medical practitioners in their prime have lost their lives while battling the disease. 

    Media portrayals of the aged as risk-prone to the diseases while the youth are risk-averse to the pandemic are thus misleading. A better story may have been told if the picture painted in the eyes of the public had been that the virus does not discriminate between ages and that all persons are at risk of the virus’ capacity to infect and destroy people, regardless of age. 

    False Hope

    Traditional and social media platforms have been flooded with a multiplicity of information to the effect that extracts from hibiscus flower (sobolo), a concoction made from the neem tree and a certain Madagascar tonic are considered by many as the surest antidote to the cure of COVID -19. Some media reports suggested further that countries in the tropics who are exposed to the harsh humid conditions from the sun are less likely to contract the disease.

    The framing of such stories to suggest an African cure to the pandemic flies in the face of WHO’s continued insistence that there is still no known cure for the virus; hence, the suggestion that some plant extracts can cure the disease is not only false but is also willfully propagated to mislead.

    Pseudo-science

    Media reports on the COVID-19 pandemic are not devoid of pseudo-science. Technology has been widely attributed to the cause of the pandemic. Particularly mentioned is the emergence of 5G technology. Media reportage of 5G technology as the source of the coronavirus pandemic caused public uproar in some countries. 

    As often as experts continue to debunk a linkage of the pandemic to the technology, the media through its coverage gave credence to it. While originators of the information know the falsity of the information and still go-ahead to distribute such, others unknowingly redistribute a ‘false information’ they have believed in.

    Implications

    The increasing rate of information disorder comes with its implications. Generally, end receivers of information may take one action or the other based on a piece of information that its credibility is wobbly. Indeed, the acceptance by a section of the public that 5G may be the cause of the pandemic resorted to the destruction of 5G equipment in some developed countries. The act of destruction is borne out of fear that the technology, when fully implemented, will threaten the existence of the human race.

    Also, the belief that some herbs hold the magic wand for the cure of the corona virus resulted in a number of persons trying any medication or herb that is reported in the media to fight the virus. The Madagascan tonic was touted as the invention that is here to save the world; ironically, its healing prowess is not full proof and the country continues to record increasing coronavirus cases with some deaths long after popularizing its own remedy for the virus.

    As media messages fail to meet the expectations of the audiences, they will be dismissive of media messages. The phenomenon may result in audiences ignoring very important information that will need their support towards the promotion of the well-being of society. 

    Conclusion

    It is evident from the discussion that the media is as powerful as it is in informing on key policies and serving as a conduit in promoting behavioural change, but misleading information on media platforms can create unnecessary anxiety and create a schemata for judging people. Framing of media messages often accounts for the contorted reality that the public is exposed to. The media, thus have a role in consciously ensuring that news and all other news enhancements are not skewed to mislead the audience across the globe.

    Again, as cases of information disorder in all its forms – misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information – soar, fact-checking every claim has become a vital arsenal in media literacy, a weapon that will enable consumers of media messages to subject media publications to thorough scrutiny to ascertain the factual basis of the information distributed.

    Bibliography 

    Critical Media Review (2015, October 19). What is framing? Retrieved from What is Media Framing?

    Shu, K, Sliva, A, Wang, S, Tang, J, & Liu, H. (2018). Fake News Detection on Social Media: A 

    Data Mining Perspective. SIGKDD Explorations, 19(1). Retrieved from http://users.wpi.edu/~kmus/ECE579M_files/ReadingMaterials/fake_news[1828].pdf

    United Nations Development Programme (2020). Guidance Note: Responding to COVID-19 

    Information Pollution. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/NII/Desktop/dubawa/undp-bpps-governance-Responding_to_COVID-19_Information%20_Pollution.pdf

    Wardle, C. & Derakhshan, H. (2017). Information Disorder: Towards an Interdisciplinary 

    Framework for Research and Policy-Making. Council of Europe. Retrieved from  https://rm.coe.int/information-disorder-toward-an-interdisciplinary-framework-for-researc/168076277c

    Zhu, H, Wei, L & Niu, P. (2020, March 2). The novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. 

    Global Health Research and Policy. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41256-020-00135-6#citeas

    The researcher produced this analysis under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism, to enhance media literacy in the country and to contribute to a body of knowledge on information disorder in the country.

  • As politics takes the limelight; a look into the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With the dying interest in stories regarding coronavirus in Ghana at a time that the country’s preparations for elections are getting into high gear, not much is in the news about the pandemic ravaging the world. As periodic information about the global disaster remains important for most aspects of public and private life, here is an update.

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global confirmed case count for the Covid-19 pandemic currently rests at 18,902,735 as at August 7 with a death toll of 709,511 across 216 countries, areas and territories.

    Updates from Worldometer, on the other hand, reports that the global death toll for the COVID-19 pandemic is now at 721,857 as at August 7, 2020, with 19,477,842 confirmed cases presently. 

    Although the data varies slightly, it is clear that there is an increase in cases across the world. All is not lost however as 12,025,753 recoveries have also been recorded worldwide.

    In Ghana specifically, infections continue to rise as confirmed counts reach 40,097  as of August 7, 2020, according to reports on the Ghana Health Service (GHS) website.

    Recoveries and discharges are also at 36,638 and 206 deaths.  It is important to note that recoveries and discharges do not correlate even though reported as if they do. This is to say that an individual may be discharged without necessarily having recovered from the virus. This is because of the new discharge policy in effect since June 2020.

    As stated by the President in his latest and 14th address to the nation on Covid-19, more and more restrictions have been eased in the country in the bid to restore some normalcy. All these changes are to take place with continued adherence to safety protocols.

    Here are some of the changes:

    • Increase in church service duration from one to two hours and the restriction on the number of congregants worshipping at a time has been lifted as of August 1, 2020. This is to say that there is no limit to the number of congregants to be present in worship centres henceforth. However, the safety protocols, social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing and sanitizer usage remain. Well-ventilated service spaces are prescribed for worship periods. 
    • Opening of tourist destinations and open air drinking spots sites excluding nightclubs, pubs and the like.
    • Full capacity in transport vehicles like taxis, buses etc

    See more here.

    Conclusion:

    COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat to every individual, regardless of age, colour, social status, or nationality, thus making the need for constant update essential, even as the country prepares for general elections. 

  • Fact-Check: How true is the claim that COVID-19 does not spread fast in public transports?

    The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, says COVID-19 does not spread fast in buses.

    Studies have proven that contracting COVID-19 on public transport is far less likely than it was earlier feared.

    Full Text

    In phase two of the easing of restrictions, President Akufo-Addo, in his 14th Address to the Nation on updates to Ghana’s Enhanced Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic on Sunday July 26th, lifted the restrictions in the transport sector.

    “In consultation with the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, and the leadership of transport operators, Government has taken the decision to lift the restrictions in the transport sector and allow for full capacity in our domestic airplanes, taxis, ‘trotros’ and buses,” the President said.

    Following that announcement, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), came out to explain that COVID-19 does not spread fast in public transports. 

    “Our advice to allow all forms of transportation services to resume full operation is that, based on our contract tracing activities, we have had cases all over but we have not found anyone who traced the infection through transport,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye said.

    He backed his claim further by saying the evidence so far in the country did not support the risk of transfer of COVID-19 in vehicles compared to other diseases.

    Verification

    Some scientists had earlier predicted that crowded public transport could stifle  Africa’s fight against COVID-19. The likelihood of the transmission of the virus in public transports resulting from overcrowding led health experts to recommend mitigating protocols like social distancing or spacing in vehicles.

    This concern for managing the challenge of COVID spread in a confined setting within which people congregate led the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to develop some guidance for the transportation sector. 

    This, however, triggered its own complications, as in South Africa, where it was reported that social distancing was affecting the country’s dysfunctional and vital public transport with commuters struggling to get transportation to destinations and drivers recording losses.

    Dubawa conducted internet research and found some contact tracing studies and research conducted elsewhere which found fewer cases of COVID-19 infections in public transportation.

    A recent study conducted by researchers at Sante Publique France, the National Public Health Agency and published on June 4, 2020, identified 150 COVID-19 infections and found that none of the 150 cases was traced to any form of transportation.

    A similar study in Austria found that not one of 355 case clusters in April and May was traceable to those in transit.

    Also, a cluster of COVID-19 disease in communities in Japan between January and April, 2020  came to a conclusion that fewer percentage of “super-spreader” events was traced  to public transport.

    However, the studies revealed that the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 was higher in offices, restaurants and bars.

    The daily mail reported on its website on August 3 that there was no available data in the UK about the risk of contracting COVID-19 on public transport.

    The report added that analysis of contact tracing data by Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner, found that only four per cent of 1,300 of COVID-19 hospital admissions in early May had used public transport prior to infection.

    We further spoke to Dr Kwabena Sarpong, Deputy Director of GHS in Charge of Public Health in the Central Region, to get an understanding of the transmission of the virus in public transport. He said that people are at low risk of contracting COVID-19 in public transport. 

    “I know some works have been done which suggests that there is a low risk of contracting the virus in public transport compared to other places but that does not also mean it is impossible to contract it in public transport,” he said.

    He further explained that people are not likely to talk, sing, and shout in buses and indicated that the virus spread through droplets from an infected person through speaking, singing, coughing, and sneezing.

    “If you are in a public transport loaded to capacity, you have to exercise personal responsibility and ensure that you wear the approved face masks and also make sure you or the person sitting close to you does not talk or shout,” he added.

    Conclusion 

    Contracting COVID-19 on public transport is far less likely than it was earlier feared. Although it is not 100 per cent certain that one can not contract COVID-19 in public transports, its infection rates, according to studies, are very low.

    The reporter produced this fact-check under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Ghana News Agency to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and to enhance media literacy in the country.  

  • Experts dismiss claims of an American-based doctor on Covid cure

    A Houston-based doctor, Dr Stella Immanuel, in a viral video, announced wonder drugs for COVID-19

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screenshot-2019-10-04-at-17.25.12.png

    The claims that Hydroxychloroquine, Zithromax and Zinc are effective against the novel coronavirus are not accurate. At the moment, there is not yet an established cure for COVID-19.

    Full Text

    SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is arguably the headline for 2020. The novel virus, which is responsible for the disease COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), has become the world’s biggest nightmare now responsible for 655,300 deaths from over 16 million infected cases recorded worldwide. The novel coronavirus, since it made its debut in China in December last year,  has set scientists working and researching for a cure and a vaccine.

    Out of the blue, on Monday, July 27th, the social media space welcomed a widely circulated video, showing a group of doctors led by Doctor Stella Immanuel, where she identified herself as a primary health care physician in Houston, Texas. This video bears news of an alleged cure for the new coronavirus. Dr Stella, while speaking in the video, revealed that she had treated over 350 COVID-19 patients with Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Zithromax and Zinc.  After emphasizing the potency of these drugs, she added that  “there is no need to wear a mask.” The video has garnered over 28 thousand views and 235 comments on Eben_rocks’ Instagram account and has featured on other social media platforms.

    Before it got on Eben_rocks, the video originated from Breibart, a rabidly right-wing, pro-Trump platform, at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by the Tea Party Patriots on July 27th. Credible platforms have said the original video amassed millions of views and even Donald Trump retweeted it.

    Given recurring, dissident, voices ranged against the mainstream medical consensus on Hydroxychloroquine since President Trump first announced its efficacy as a cure for coronavirus, Dubawa opted for additional research on the new claim by Dr. Immanuel. This is regardless of Dubawa’s previous review of a plethora of similar falsehoods regarding an imminent medicine or remedy. 

    Verification

    Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)

    The buzz around hydroxychloroquine providing relief against the novel virus surfaced after a live TV endorsement of the anti-malarial by President Donald J Trump. Mr. Trump claimed he was using the drug against the virus, and while people have rushed to get the medications for treatments, studies and reports show it to be an ineffective remedy. Worse still, some research confirmed that in some cases, the drug resulted in casualties. USA Today, for instance, in its Fact Check, said it had found there is no evidence that the drug is effective against the virus.

    What are Health Authorities saying?

    The World Health Organization’s provision regarding many claims of finding a cure for COVID-19 has not changed. The body has said there is no cure yet for the virus, although researchers across the world are still working to develop a therapeutic or vaccine for the virus. The health organization who has initially recommended hydroxychloroquine for clinical trials has now halted further use

    While the National Institute of Health was cited in the trending video, the agency has stopped the use of hydroxychloroquine in clinical trials. It says, “Study shows treatment does no harm but provides no benefit.”  

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”

    The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has reacted to the trending video, pleading with Nigerians to take caution against the inferences in the video. The centre designed a card to warn people against self-medication and encourages the use of masks.

    Additionally, the Guild of Medical Directors has also responded to the video. It issued an urgent press release which addresses the issue. The Press release stated that “people must understand that this is not scientific evidence and just her (Dr Stella) own personal, unsubstantiated claims.”  The Guild also said, “This disease is definitely not a joke, and we strongly condemn the politicization of the disease and the treatments currently being used to fight the pandemic. As at today, the whole world is still actively looking for effective treatment and of course, a vaccine. Until then, everyone has a responsibility to remain safe and protect one another through the ways proven to help.”

    Based on the positions of the various health authorities, it is clear that Dr. Stella Immanuel and her team are alone on the new claim about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid-19. 

    Who is Doctor Stella Immanuel? 

    Dr. Stella Immanuel is a  medical doctor currently practicing in the United States with more than 30 years of diverse experiences, especially in EMERGENCY MEDICINE. She is also a pastor. Her Facebook profile defines her as a physician, author, speaker, entrepreneur, deliverance minister, “God’s battle axe and weapon of war.” She was one of the doctors who spoke at the conference where the video was shot and in which she was portrayed as the speaker. 

    Here’s why you should disregard her claims.

    According to this report, Dr. Stella has a history of publishing bizarre claims. She once claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. Besides that, while she has publicly advised against the use of nose masks, she has been caught wearing one while preaching in her church. 

    Further, she referred to a 2005 research that made her start using HCQ for her COVID patients – citing a research done under the National Institute of Health that proves HCQ’s efficacy against COVID-19.

    Although she was not specific about the study, Dubawa found this research. The study identified “chloroquine” not hydroxychloroquine as an inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread. While that has been said, it is worthy of note that the disease-causing the current pandemic is not SARS but SARS-COV-2. And although SARS may have similar characteristics with SARS-COV-2, it is new and different. Hence, a 2005 research may not be accurate in the context of COVID-19. Moreover, the NIH has also paused the clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care.” Hence, it stands to reason that some of her patients may be in this category.

    Meanwhile, when Facebook and Twitter took down the video in question. The doctor reacted to this, as seen in the screenshot below. 

    Conclusion

    Health authorities have responded to various claims regarding Hydroxychloroquine, stating that the drug is not effective against the new coronavirus. As it is, there is no cure for the new coronavirus yet. Therefore, the claims made in the viral video are far from accurate.

  • UPDATED: How true is the claim that COVID-19 patients do not ‘truly’ recover?

    The headline of a news article claims ‘nobody truly recovers from COVID-19’

    COVID-19 patients recover from the virus but some may suffer some health complications. That aside, the headline of the news story is misleading as the source cited was misrepresented and did not state that.

    Full text

    COVID-19 has given health practitioners new experiences in their field of work. An example of such experience with COVID-19 is one recounted in a tweet by a nurse as the worst disease she has ever worked with, as she further stated some effects of the virus on a recovered patient. The tweet has also been shared on Facebook and has received several interactions.

    A news story which reported on the nurse’s statements on the effects of the virus has a headline claiming that “Nobody truly recovers from COVID-19”, attributing the said claim to the nurse.

    Verification

    In the tweet by the Twitter user Cherie Antoinette that the media organisation referenced, the nurse did not state that nobody truly recovers from COVID-19. What she did was to list a number of complications she claimed that one may suffer from the virus even after recovery, which she said most people are not privy to. 

    “COVID 19 is the worst disease process I’ve ever worked with in my eight years as an ICU nurse. When they say “recovered” they don’t tell you that that means you may need a lung transplant. Or that you may come back after d/c (discharge) with a massive heart attack or stroke bc (because) COVID makes  your blood thick as hell. Or that you may have to be on oxygen for the rest of your life. COVID is designed to kill. It is a highly intelligent virus and it attacks everything. We will run out of resources if we don’t continue to flatten the  curve. I’m exhausted,” she tweeted.

    More so, Dubawa reached out to Cherie Antoinette, who is a nurse at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Northside Atlanta and Grady Memorial Hospitals, and received an in-depth narration of the nurse’s experience with the readmission of a previous mild case of a COVID-19 patient – an experience she acknowledged was the cause of her tweet stemming from exhaustion and frustration. 

    She recounted to Dubawa her experience with a mild COVID-19 patient who was readmitted with graver complications. The patient was readmitted with a heart attack and cardiogenic shock. Additionally, his foot was completely black and blue from a newly developed clot which she said were complications from COVID-19. 

    “The unknown nature of the inflammatory process and the severity of the case is just uncertain. We must take all precautions to prevent infection. We can not get relaxed or complacent in our social distancing and hand-washing. Donning a mask is crucial. A once thought singular infection is proving to be a more sinister chronic process. There is just so much we don’t know about this virus or the long-term implications. That warrants great caution’’, Cherie stated.

    We also interviewed a Ghanaian doctor with Tantra Community Clinic, Dr Senyo Misroame, who threw light on the nurse’s tweet. 

    “She is not wrong in saying that. What she means to say is that the patient could have some complications even after recovering from the virus. Because you can recover from COVID-19 but later have some complications, which does not affect the patient’s recovery status. There is a difference, ” Dr Misroame said. 

    He further explained that to recover from the virus means the patient does not show signs and symptoms of the virus, and there is also evidence of laboratory tests proving that the patient does not have the virus anymore, which confirms such patients as negative.

    “When we use recovery in the strictest medical sense, it means there is not an active viral presence of COVID-19 in you anymore,” he said.

    “However, we have found that there are some that could have immediate, medium or long-term complications after their recovery, such as stroke, their blood vessels getting thinner, respiratory problems, long term brain damage, just as the nurse indicated. We are still learning,” Dr Misroame added. 

    Dr Misroame also clarified that if anyone is said not to have recovered, they are the patients who are described to have a case of Chronic COVID-19 which usually lasts beyond 6 weeks and even 6 months of testing positive. However, people do recover from COVID-19 although it is possible that some who do, may develop some complications either early or late.

    Additionally, medical research has indicated complications associated with COVID-19 affecting the organs of patients long-term. For example, a study published by the American Heart Association showed that recovered COVID-19 patients could be affected with chronic cardiac complications due to persistent inflammation caused by the virus. 

    Another study published by the Radiological Society of North America found that 66 out of 70 Wuhan COVID-19 discharged patients had lung abnormalities from their last CT scan results over a month after their discharges from the hospital. 

    In view of this, a public health study published by the US National Institute of Health conducted on the post-recovery status of COVID-19 patients made some recommendations. The study showed possible complications some recovered patients may have, as a result of a multi-organ damage on the brain, heart, lungs, kidney, eyes and digestive tract, caused by the virus, and recommended the need to follow-up on recovered patients to have a  more comprehensive view of the virus and allow for timely medical interventions. 

    “People who have recovered from COVID-19 should be more careful in maintaining and monitoring their health status. They have to be in regular monitoring for their future complications that may occur after their recovery. Hence, the recovered patients are recommended to complete a master health check-up to scout for risks for other diseases”, the study recommended.

    Conclusion

    The headline of the news report that nobody truly recovers from COVID-19 is misleading. The original post by the nurse on Twitter, which was referenced by the media organisation, only listed a number of complications that could be associated with the virus even after recovery. 

    A Ghanaian medical doctor further explained the nurse’s statements by stating that recovering from COVID-19 is different from having complications from COVID-19. By explaining recovery as no longer having an active presence of the virus, the doctor stated that there are people who recover from the virus with no complications, while others also recover from the virus but could derive some early or late complications, which does not affect their COVID-19 recovery status in any way.

    PS: This article has been updated to include a response by Cherie Antoinette, the Twitter user whose tweet was the basis of the claim.

  • What WHO said on COVID-19 transmission by symptomatic and asymptomatic patients

    Viral social media messages claim the World Health Organisation has said COVID-19 patients can not transmit the virus from one patient to another, and that patients do not need isolation, quarantine, and social distancing.

    The WHO has clarified that although about two or three studies have shown that the transmission by asymptomatic patients is very rare, it cannot be applied globally as there is ongoing research globally on the spread of the virus and the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission of the virus. 

    Full text

    Over the past weeks, the transmissibility of COVID-19 by asymptomatic patients has been of public interest among some Ghanaians. This is following a parliamentarian and former deputy Trade Minister, Carlos Ahenkorah’s claim that he is asymptomatic and is unable to transmit the virus to others as he referenced the World Health Organization (WHO) when he was interviewed on why he left isolation to go among people.

    A message was, thereafter, circulated on Ghanaian WhatsApp media making similar claim purported to be by the WHO that COVID-19 patients do not need isolation, quarantine, nor social distancing and that the virus can not be transmitted among patients.

    The message reads:

    Breaking News: The World Health Organization has taken a complete U turn and said that Corona patients neither need to be isolated nor quarantined, nor social of distance, and it cannot even transmit from one patient to another. See the video.

    The message is accompanied by a video from an American news organisation, NewsMaxTv. 

    In the video posted on June 9, 2020, the host, Greg Kelly, is seen playing back a press conference by the WHO the day before, and later interviewing a doctor, Dr David Samadi, to contribute to what the WHO purportedly said concerning the rare transmission of asymptomatic patients. 

    Verification

    The video that accompanies the viral message did not mention the claim quoting WHO as saying COVID-19 patients do not need to isolate, quarantine or observe social distancing. 

    However, Dr David Samadi is heard making claims regarding asymptomatic patients that,

    “They are taking a 360 turn and the WHO is announcing that asymptomatic people out there are not contagious.” 

    In a contrary statement, Dr Samadi later stated in the video that asymptomatic patients’ risk of passing the virus on to other people is very rare.

    What the WHO said on the rarity of asymptomatic transmission

    Dubawa found the WHO press conference of Monday 8th June, 2020, where the asymptomatic transmission claims by the WHO were purported to have been made. 

    During the conference, there was no mention that asymptomatic patients are not contagious. The Covid-19 Technical Lead for WHO, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, was asked about the transmission of asymptomatic patients, and she did mention that the transmission of asymptomatic transmission was rare She, however, added that this was based on the country reports the WHO had received so far:

    “We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare and much of that is not published in the literature. From the papers that are published, there’s one that came out from Singapore looking at a long-term care facility. There are some household transmission studies where you follow individuals over time and you look at the proportion of those that transmit onwards.”

    She further stated that more information from countries would be needed to fully make a conclusion on asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus.

    “We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.” 

    WHO’s clarification concerning asymptomatic transmission

    As it had been generally perceived that the WHO had concluded that asymptomatic patients rarely transmit the virus, the following day, 9th June 2020, the WHO clarified the statements by Dr Kerkhove. The clarification was made via a live Q&A broadcast on COVID-19 transmission.

    During the session, Dr Kerkhove acknowledged that her diction ‘very rare’ to describe the transmission rate of asymptomatic patients was miscommunicated. She further noted that her statements from the previous day were based on just two or three studies that have been published on asymptomatic transmission rates and she did not mean that to imply the case of global asymptomatic transmission.

    She added that the findings from the studies she referenced in answering questions about the transmission rate of asymptomatic patients was not a policy by the WHO, but just a very small subset of studies known to WHO at the time she spoke. 

    However, Dr Kerkhove added that asymptomatic patients can transmit the virus as a model shows that an estimate of about 40 per cent of transmission may be due to asymptomatic patients. 

    “We do know that some people who are asymptomatic, or some people who do not have symptoms, can transmit the virus on,’’ she said. 

    WHO officials during the broadcast stated that a lot remains unknown about transmission rates and there is still ongoing research on the virus, as scientists are still learning about the virus and how it spreads.

    Furthermore, in a publication by the WHO on 11 June 2020, the organisation stated that global research continues to be conducted on the asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

    The publication reads: “Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic patients are difficult to conduct, as they require testing of large population cohorts and more data are needed to better understand and quantify the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2.  WHO is working with countries around the world, and global researchers, to gain better evidence-based understanding of the disease as a whole, including the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission of the virus.’’

    Several news publications here, here, here, have reported on this clarification by the WHO that evidence of rate of asymptomatic transmission remains globally inconclusive.  

    What the WHO has said concerning symptomatic transmission

    The WHO have stated that it is known that most COVID-19 transmission is by symptomatic patients.

    “The majority of transmission that we know about is that people who have symptoms transmit the virus to other people through infectious droplets,” Dr. Kerkhove said

    Conclusion

    The claim that the WHO has stated that Covid-19 patients can not transmit the virus is false. The WHO indicated that a few studies have shown that the transmission by asymptomatic patients is very rare, yet it cannot be applied globally as there is ongoing research globally on the spread of the virus and the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission of the virus. 

    Further, the WHO stated that there is evidence of the transmissibility of the virus by both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

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