FAKE News and misinformation about the deadly Coronavirus could lead to more cases in the UK, experts have warned.
The University of East Anglia’s Professor Paul Hunter, of the Norwich Medical School, said fake news about the deadly disease could lead to people passing on “bad advice” and could make people take “greater risks”.
It comes as Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said on Thursday that many more people in the UK may need to self-isolate to contain the illness, which has been officially named Covid-19.
More than 80 people quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral were allowed to leave following 14 days in isolation, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirming they pose “no risk to the public”.
THE BATSH*T CRAZY CORONAVIRUS CONSPIRACIES
“CORONAVIRUS COMES FROM CHINESE PEOPLE EATING BAT SOUP!” – FALSE!
“YOU CAN CURE CORONAVIRUS BY DRINKING BLEACH!” – FALSE!
“THE VIRUS IS A BIOWEAPON STOLEN FROM CANADA!” – FALSE!
“THE VIRUS IS A COVERT CHINESE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMME!” – FALSE!
Professor Hunter, who has previously run tests on the impact of fake news on disease outbreaks with colleague Julii Brainard, said speculation was already rife online about the origin of the virus and how it can be spread.
He said: “Misinformation means that bad advice can circulate very quickly – and it can change human behaviour to take greater risks.”
He added: “Examples of risky behaviour during infectious disease outbreaks include not washing hands, sharing food with ill people, not disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces, and failing to self-isolate.”
“Worryingly, people are more likely to share bad advice on social media, than good advice from trusted sources such as the NHS, Public Health England or the World Health Organisation.”
Suspected cases of coronavirus are still being tested, including one mother who told The Sun that her eight-month-old son had come into contact with an infected doctor while being treated for a leg injury at Worthing Hospital.
Stephanie Adlan, 28, said she was “terrified” for son James and has self-isolated with her family but criticised medics at the hospital for a lack of information.
She told the paper: “I’ve had nothing from the hospital. Not a ‘How are you?’ or ‘What’s going on?’ ‘How’s the baby?’ We’ve just been told to stay indoors and call 111 if our symptoms get worse.”
Following the departure of the group in quarantine – the first to be flown out of Wuhan city in China where the outbreak first emerged – Sir Simon said they had been “highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical” in keeping themselves and others safe.
He added: “They have set an important example, recognising that over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus’s spread.”
It comes as it emerged the woman who is the UK’s ninth case of coronavirus took an Uber to A&E after she developed symptoms.
The unnamed woman, who is being treated at a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’, contracted the virus in China before flying to the UK.
Two staff from Lewisham hospital in south London are now in isolation at home after coming into contact with the woman.
Earlier on Thursday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said officials were working on delaying the spread of coronavirus cases throughout the UK.
He said what happens with coronavirus could go one of two ways, with the first scenario seeing the Chinese government getting on top of the epidemic and then a limited impact on the rest of the world.
The Department of Health said on Thursday that 2,521 people in the UK have been tested, of whom 2,512 were confirmed negative and nine positive.
In China, the number of deaths from coronavirus has reached 1,380, with more than 63,000 recorded infections, in figures announced early on Friday morning.
A total of 44 more people on quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess in Japan have tested positive for Covid-19 disease. Two of those are Britons, taking the number of Britons on the ship diagnosed with coronavirus to three.
Japan also confirmed its first death from the virus on Thursday.
WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS?
The coronavirus outbreak has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Close to 1,300 have died and more than 30,000 people have been infected with the respiratory disease which originated in the Wuhan city in China.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO CHINA?
The Government has warned people not to travel to China. The official advise from the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) is against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao).
The Foreign Office added: “The British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed. If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so.”
People who have travelled to other locations have also been told to self-isolate if they have come back from countries including Thailand and Japan.
The official list of countries include:
- Republic of Korea
- Hong Kong
HOW YOU CAN HELP STOP THE SPREAD
The UK Government launched a UK-wide public information blitz last week advising Brits on how to slow the spread of coronavirus and reduce the impact on NHS services.
So far NINE cases have hit the UK, most cases are from China.
The government-funded campaign includes public health advice on how people can protect themselves from infection.
The campaign will promote important hygiene practices, such as regularly washing hands and always sneezing into a tissue, to stem the spread of viruses.
The campaign advises the public to:
- always carry tissues and use them to catch coughs and sneezes, and bin the tissue
- wash hands with soap and water, or use sanitiser gel, to kill germs
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our highly trained and experienced clinicians are working round the clock to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the UK.”
“The government has detailed plans for how to deal with an outbreak like this. We can all play our part.”
“Basic hygiene such as washing our hands regularly and using tissues when we cough and sneeze can play an important role in minimising the spread of viruses like this. Today we have launched a UK-wide public information campaign to help the public protect themselves and each other.”
“Our world-class NHS is well prepared and we are doing everything we can to protect the public.”
People who have travelled back from the Hubei province in China within the last 14 days are being asked to:
- stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
- call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the city
- if you are in Northern Ireland, call your GP
Anyone who has travelled from anywhere else in China (not including Macao or Hong Kong) to the UK in the last 14 days and develops symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath should immediately self-isolate, even if symptoms are minor, and call NHS 111.
The UK is extremely well prepared for any potential outbreak of an infectious disease – we are one of the first countries in the world to have developed a test for the new virus.
On Friday 31 January 2020, 2 patients in England, who are members of the same family, tested positive for coronavirus.
They are receiving specialist NHS care and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
The government is already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had to prevent further spread, and are in close contact with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure the UK is ready for all eventualities.
Coronavirus presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild. For further information on coronavirus, visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Additional Reporting by PA Media