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Doctors falsely claim coronavirus no worse than the flu

October 23, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The coronavirus is no worse than the flu and the pandemic is a hoax.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A group of health professionals who call themselves the World Doctors Alliance make multiple false claims in a video being shared online, many of which have been debunked by experts working to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

THE FACTS: In the video, which is about 30 minutes long, seven doctors representing Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom spell out why they believe lockdowns around the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus should be ended. On their website, the alliance is described as an independent nonprofit group of health professionals who have united to end lockdowns.

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The first false claim made in the video states there is no hard evidence that shows that coronavirus should be labeled a pandemic.

I want to state we do not have a medical pandemic or epidemic,” Elke de Klerk, who identifies herself as a general practitioner representing the Netherlands, says in the video, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media.

There is No P A N D E M I C. Have we been duped? How many people are still following blindly? I’m not a doctor, but these people are,” one Instagram post with more than 50,000 views said, sharing a clip of her remarks.

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was due to the “alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.” At the time, there were118,000 cases of the virus in 114 countries and 4,291 people had died. Cases of the virus worldwide have now reached 41.8 million, with 1.1 million deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

De Klerk goes on in the video to make several other false claims, including that the virus is “normal flu virus” and that the panic from the virus was “created by false positive PCR tests.”

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The coronavirus and the flu may have similar symptoms, but they are different viruses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu and can cause more severe illnesses. There is no vaccine to guard against the coronavirus, but there is one for influenza.

De Klerk maintains that “89% to 94% of PCR tests are false positive,” and don’t test for COVID-19. “Medical doctors have to stop looking at those tests,” she said.

Some medical professionals have been critical of PCR tests, due to the sensitivity of the tests. Polymerase chain reaction test kits determine the genetic material of the virus. They rely on specialty lab equipment and chemicals.

Michael Joseph Mina, a physician and professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s school of public health, said it’s not true that a majority of coronavirus PCR tests are false positives and don’t test for the virus.

“Many can be late positives meaning the RNA is still there but the viable virus has been cleared,” he said in an email. “So these people may not be contagious anymore. But the result is accurate - the PCR is finding SARS2 RNA.”

Mina added that more testing is needed, not less.

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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