CoronaCheck: International Fact-Checking Day 2020

China released the virus

One pervasive coronavirus conspiracy theory suggests the virus was “created” in order to bring down economies and achieve world domination. In most cases, the theories suggest China is behind the purposeful spread of the virus, which is sometimes referred to as a bioweapon.

Readers have pointed to one such theory, spread on Facebook, which claims, among other things:

“China’s vision is to control the World economy by buying up stocks now from countries facing the brink of severe ECONOMIC COLLAPSE.”

Conservative lobby group Advance Australia have also published an article detailing a theory that the virus may have “escaped from” a military laboratory in Wuhan.

There’s currently no evidence to suggest the coronavirus originated anywhere other than in nature. 

Fact checkers at USA Today looked to a recent report from the Scripps Research Institute which concluded that the coronavirus “mostly resembled related viruses found in bats and pangolins.”

And in a statement published in the medical journal The Lancet, public health scientists from across the globe said they had also decided “overwhelmingly … that this coronavirus originated in wildlife”.

Meanwhile, PolitFact found no evidence to support a claim that COVID-19 was created in a lab, adding that “scientists who have isolated the genetic makeup of the 2019 coronavirus say its likely source is bats”. 

Coronavirus survives on surfaces for up to 17 days

Headlines declaring that studies of the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship showed that the coronavirus could survive on surfaces up to 17 days were misleading, according to fact checkers.

PolitiFact found that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had detected traces of the virus 17 days after cruise ship passengers had vacated their cabins, these were parts of viral RNA and not the live virus.

Dr Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology and molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, told PolitiFact:

“A piece of viral RNA is not the same thing as a live infectious virus. In order for a virus to be infectious, it has to have intact membrane, spike protein and the whole intact genome (there are close to 30,000 bases of genetic code in the viral genome).”