What not to believe: coronavirus myths you should ignore

The Canary

Britons have been facing a flood of myths about the new coronavirus (Covid-19), according to new research.

No, vodka isn’t a good hand sanitiser

The most widely believed false claim is that vodka can be used as hand sanitiser, according to a YouGov survey of 2,099 adults. In reality, there is not enough alcohol in vodka to effectively kill microbes. But 32% of Britons felt it was probably true that the spirit could help them tackle the virus.

The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, recently suggested that his fellow citizens should drink 50ml of vodka a day to ward off the virus.

Other myths

There were also 14% of adults who believe that coronavirus will die off in spring, but since this is a novel virus everyone has yet to find out if this is the case.

The researchers also found that 13% of people falsely think pets can pass on the virus.

Among the false rumours which seem to have been brought to life on social media is that holding your breath for 10 seconds means you cannot get the virus, which 16% of adults think is true.

A similar number also believe that drinking water every 15 minutes will flush out the virus.

YouGov says these bogus bits of advice can be traced back to false claims that it came from experts at Stanford University in the US or it was supposed to have been in advice that went to NHS staff.

Some social media posts have recommended eating garlic to prevent infection, but only 4% of Britons believe it would make a difference, according to the researchers.

Another claim is that drinking hot drinks could help prevent infection, advice which one in 10 Britons believe is valid, while 8% of adults thought there would be a benefit by staying in the sun.

It’s not “just like the flu”, and it can affect anyone

Men are more likely to downplay the severity of the virus as 24% of them believe coronavirus is “just like the flu” compared with 16% of women, according to the research, which notes that the mortality rate is higher for this current pandemic than normal flu.

The idea that coronavirus only affects older people and those with underlying health conditions was believed by 14% of men and 8% of women.

The researchers also found that men also appeared to be less likely to believe official government advice, such as the need to stay indoors as a way to stop the virus from spreading, with 10% saying this was false compared with 2% of women.

Masks can help, when used appropriately

Many Britons are also happy to put their faith in a face mask with 6% saying it definitely protects you against coronavirus while 22% feel it is probably true, the researchers found.

A mask can cut the chances of contracting the virus if you are spending time close to someone who is infected and it can protect other people if you have symptoms, YouGov notes.

The most effective actions, however…

Frequent handwashing, staying indoors and keeping two metres away from people – which are part of official advice to help stop the spread of the virus – is believed by 92%, 90% and 89% respectively to be a true and effective measure against getting the illness.

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. I think some points could be clearer and more informative. And we should be careful with the concept of ‘myths’ and ‘false rumours’ spread by social media (rather then governments and corporations).

      The reason why alcohol for drinking is no good as a sanitiser is because the percentage alcohol needs to be at least 60% to be ‘effective’, e.g. 75%. So vodka is ‘not effective’ in practice, but a general understanding that alcohol kills viruses is a good thing (while proper washing with ordinary soap is more effective).

      Scientists were hoping that Covid-19 would be less dangerous with the higher temperatures of spring/summer. It looks like this is not the case (e.g. Australia), so this is new scientific info, not myth busting.

      Pets. If Covid-19 only affects humans, that’s good. But we like to stroke cats and dogs, can this spread virus or not? (e.g. if your dog goes up to someone in a park and gets stroked). Just a thought.

      If people are suggesting holding their breath for 10 seconds, surely they are referring to walking past someone who has coughed or sneezed? Would that not be common sense?

      Is garlic helpful or not (immune system, antiviral)? There seems to be some debate regarding research/studies on this.

      “Staying in the sun”. We need some sunlight for vitamin D for our immune systems. We are stuck indoors now, so this is an important message (I’m using a UV lamp).

      I hope I’m not spreading any misunderstandings with this post. But we should not fear critiquing and debating these issues, especially when our government have proven totally incompetent in ignoring containment (airports, testing and tracing, etc.) and failure to prepare (PPE, respirators, staff, etc.).

      1. Gor blimey Guvnor!

        I think that is about the 5th time ever that someone took a point by point case and said exactly what I wanted to! Respec.

        The only other point that could be taken is that the ‘Mortality rate’ depends upon the INFECTION rate – which requires testing kits, which the Tories decided we didn’t need. When the Chief Medical Officer said that “There may be 10x the cases out there”, he wasn’t panic-mongering, rather the opposite. IF that is true, then Covid is barely more fatal than the flu – scant comfort to those losing relatives and friends and neighbours.

        What is REALLY killing people is the Tory Govt and its never-ending cuts to welfare and social services, and hiving off the NHS to profiting private health corporates.

        Germany has made Coronavirus less fatal than the flu – think about that. How? By not electing the worst people imaginable to run their country.

        Covid will kill people. Flu kills people. What do they have in common? For both diseases well equipped and staffed medical facilities will both prevent most of those deaths. No matter how bad BloJo and Cummings get Covid, THEY WILL SURVIVE. Because no expense will be saved on them.

        That is not the case for ‘normal’ British voters. People should take their votes more seriously.

        1. Thanks Gnu! (that might be the 5th for you, it’s a first Gor Blimey in my favour)

          Good point that Tory austerity is killing more. 120,000 excess deaths 2010-2017 according to BMJ, or 131,000 for 2012-2019 according to IPPR.
          https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/11/e017722
          After a few outlets first reported the BMJ figure, and it got mentioned on QT, the corporate media have buried it – it did not happen! E.g. a woman interviewed on C4 news mentioned the 120,000 figure and Krishnan Guru-Murthy interrupted with as dismissive “where did you hear that?” (she couldn’t name the research, pay rise for Krishnan).

          Let’s say 150,000 killed by austerity for 2010-2020 (ignoring the future effects). We’ll have to see if BloJo can trump austerity with coronavirus incompetence*. If we end up with 70% ‘herd immunity’ and 250,000 deaths, while some other countries achieve containment in the long term, maybe 200,000 excess deaths could be added to the Tory slate.

          * another example – WHO and ENT doctors have known for at least 12 days that anosmia (sudden loss of smell and taste) is a red flag for coronavirus. Lots of younger people are unknowingly spreading the virus. Still no update to government guidance.

    2. Handwashing & keeping away from others is just sound sense but not going out is twaddle. As long as one keeps 6 ft away from others there’s not problem. Here in Dorset I drive to a church burial ground with a seat in the centre for an hour in the afternoons. I sit in the sunshine & nibble an apple & orange, take in the scenery & listen to the bird song and have a walk. It’s peaceful & I see nobody else. In Newcastle upon Tyne gun toting police & soldiers would stop me doing this…………UKana has been turned into a police state.

    3. People who have had and have recovered from ‘the virus’ who I have heard on radio and via an online blog have, on the contrary, definitely said that regular liquid intake is to be recommended. This includes hot drinks. The elderly pair David and Sally Abel (David is a Methodist minister) were among the trapped on the cruise ship ‘Diamond Princess’ off Japan not so long ago. David and Sally relate a fascinating experience of suffering and then, pretty much, miraculous and dogged overcoming of their illness with wonderful Japanese medical care. They continue now with an explanation of their ‘recommended efficacy’ in David Abel’s blog back home in the UK with the esoteric alternative ‘medical practice’ of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This rather quaint methodology (‘Tapping’) one might completely balk at – which with a less arrogant humbling regard can see simply as a self-hypnotising inner mantra-intoning or prayerful meditating upon self-curing and a greater good. See David and Sally’s blogs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zftBe8WFM3w&list=PLu59tySpdppAqxiW6Y7ZlPJD997tB7eqb&index=2

      1. The Placebo effect works, and has been scientifically proven many times, in many cases it is the patient accepting the ‘authority’ of medical professionals which is the key to their health improving (trust essentially), in others it is their own belief in their own healing prowess that helps.

        It is important to note however that the placebo effect has its opposite, hence why even proven drugs can fail in some. I mention this as it worries me that when people are facing so much distrust and fear, distrusting medical staff can affect the efficacy of treatments too.

        This is why we absolutely need our NHS back in our hands, it isn’t just the drugs and care they give us that is important, but our trust in that care can make the difference between life and death too.

        I brought up placebo’s not as a recommendation to run from drug therapies, or as advice to completely cure ourselves of Covid-19 (among many, many others), but to highlight that some ‘treatments’ may indeed appear effective and work, but that that may well be down to The Placebo Effect, not necessarily the ingestion of consumables, or laying-on-of-hands etc., of anything.

        If it works for you grrrrrooooovy! Just be aware it could be your ‘faith’ that actually made the difference.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.