Whenever a crisis or national tragedy hits, it’s only a matter of time before the tin foil hats come out and the conspiracy theories start circulating, and the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has been no exception. From a phony "vaccine" to drinking urine, here are some of the wackiest alternative explanations and treatments currently making the rounds.
SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a lab
On March 9th, Iran’s former President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared COVID-19 a bioweapon in a Tweet that included a letter penned to António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, outlining his suspicions of the novel virus. As the theory gained traction, the New York Post published a feature that at best confuses tenuous links with causation and at worst states objectively untrue information that veers on paranoia. Some internet users were even claiming Bill Gates had a part to play in the synthesis of the "lab-grown" virus, with the conspiracy claiming that such an outbreak could mean big business for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, despite the fact the foundation has pledged millions to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
The misinformed story has circulated to such an extent that an actual study has been carried out to prove the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, a strain of coronavirus that has been shown to have many shared characteristics with other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS. Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the study notes that two key features in the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen rule out laboratory intervention in its development. So, let’s just put that one to bed now, shall we?
SARS-CoV-2 came from space
Panspermia is a theory that life can inhabit foreign planets under the right conditions and arrive via a meteorite. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, claimed earlier this year that a fireball that burnt up in northern China last October is the most likely source of SARS-CoV-2, despite there having been no reports of meteorites found on the ground.
The similarities of SARS-CoV-2 with SARS and MERS are yet again evidence that this theory doesn’t have legs, as it’s incredibly unlikely that an extraterrestrial virus would evolve in exactly the same way as Earth-borne pathogens. If you’re still not convinced of the ridiculousness of this claim, we go into all the reasons why SARS-CoV-2 didn’t come from space here.
COVID-19 isn’t even a virus, it’s 5G frying our brains
Think 5G is the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections? Think again! As, according to the internet, the disease COVID-19 isn’t a virus at all but in fact the effect of 5G towers, which were first introduced in 2019. This is, of course, rubbish but that hasn’t stopped it spreading across social platforms with the help of a few celebrities.
Singer Keri Hilson who has 4.2 million followers on Twitter hopped on the 5G bandwagon, but on the same day was advised by her management team to delete all Tweets and videos pertaining to the theory. A public post on Facebook outlines the theory in greater detail with some radical twists including 5G’s brain-frying capabilities. Bill Gates is also apparently back at it again, this time with a wicked plot to develop a “vaccine” that will in fact be a chip to monitor our movements. The post adds, “they can end ya life through them micro chips with the push of a button.” The author of the Facebook post has now also been flagged by Facebook’s independent fact-checkers as false information.
Snorting cocaine or drinking alcohol or cow urine can prevent it
As one of the cocaine capitals of Europe, the very fact that COVID-19 has taken most enthusiastically to London since reaching the UK would seem to imply that the white stuff provides no protection. The theory began to spread following a viral Tweet and eventually even got a rise out of the French government who told the nation, in no uncertain terms, “No, cocaine does not protect against COVID-19”.
Others on social media have hinted towards booze as a preventative measure, but since the aftermath of a sesh can include a weakened immune system, it’s best not to try and use beer prophylactically. The only use of alcohol in preventing yourself from transmitting the disease is that found in hand sanitizer.
In India, a cow urine-drinking party of 200 people hosted by a group called the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (All India Hindu Union) saw revelers pose for photographs next to a caricature of the coronavirus. Cows are considered sacred to many Hindus and some believe drinking their urine provides medical benefits including treating cancer. A photograph from the party shows Chakrapani Maharaj, the chief of the All India Hindu Union, with a spoon of cow urine facing a caricature of coronavirus. Seems Mary Poppins had it wrong all along as to how the medicine goes down.
Coconut oil is a cure
There is currently no cure for COVID-19, with treatment plans mostly consisting of supporting patients through the worst stages of the disease. Drug repurposing has thrown some medications into question, as the HIV drug Kaletra was tested in a randomized trial in China but failed to yield positive results, meanwhile a new trial is currently underway for the antiviral drug Remdesivir.
The fact that scientists have been unable to find a cure hasn’t stopped others from trying to find their own, with some claiming that coconut oil and its lauric content can stop the illness. There have been some studies into the effects of coconut oil on Staphylococcus aureus, which showed it could inhibit growth, but that’s about as far as its properties (which haven’t been proven with human subjects) go. It’s certainly never been linked to the treatment of COVID-19, so if you’ve prematurely stocked up, maybe just make a delightful hair mask.
Life in a pandemic is confusing and scary, and as tensions run high, there is a temptation to panic. Do your best to ignore unfounded claims on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, and look to official and independent broadcasters for the facts on how the ongoing outbreak is affecting life in your local area. If the stress of it all is getting you down, these ingenious social distancing moments from across the globe might cheer you up.