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Website does not show COVID-19 test kits for purchase in 2017 and 2018

September 8, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: World Bank website shows COVID-19 test kits purchased by countries in 2017 and in 2018. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The data compiled by World Integrated Trade Solution, which tracks trade and tariff information globally, shows previously existing devices that are now being used to fight the coronavirus. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Social media users are sharing data from the World Integrated Trade Solution website to suggest that testing kits for COVID-19 were purchased by countries in 2017 and 2018. The erroneous posts are using the data to suggest that the coronavirus is a hoax spread by global leaders. 

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The World Bank along with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and several global trade organizations developed World Integrated Trade Solution _ WITS _ software to track information on trade and tariffs.  

The posts began circulating late last week using screenshots from a page on the WITS website that shows test kit exports by country. At the time the posts were first shared, the website said “COVID-19 Test kits (382200) exports by country” in 2017.

The website has since clarified the information on the page to say that “data here track previously existing medical devices that are now classified by the World Customs Organization as critical to tackling COVID-19.” The World Bank confirmed to the AP that the products were available before COVID-19 for other uses, but have recently been designated to support COVID-19 efforts. 

In April, the World Customs Organization and the World Health Organization collaborated to create a list of codes to help speed up the movement of medical supplies that could be used to diagnose and treat COVID-19 across borders. A June version of the list includes ventilators which have long existed before the coronavirus, according to The World Bank. 

It serves as the basis for identifying the cross-border movement of the products needed during the pandemic, applying contingent tariff and non-tariff relief policies, monitoring and combating falsified supplies, and even for taking responsive actions to address shortages,” the World Customs Organization said in a statement in April. 

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Some posts linked to a chart showing countríes’ exports for test kits that rely on polymerase chain reaction testing, PCR. The test kits determine the genetic material of the virus. The tests have been around for more than 30 years.

This has been planned for DECADES!,” one Facebook post said, sharing a screenshot of the data. 

The false posts online were shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter. Some posts even suggest that the World Bank updating the page was a sign that there was a cover up.  

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536