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Abstract

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 is a new single-stranded RNA virus with respiratory system proclivity and epithelial cell. This novel infectious disease originated in Wuhan, China in December, 2019 and has spread to many countries with the total number of confirmed cases put at 20,259,579 cases as of 12th August, 2020. It is transmitted from human-to-human via droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets find their way into the mouth or nostrils of another person that is within a close range. Alternatively it can be contracted by touching infected hard surfaces and using the same hands to touch the mouth, nose and eye(s). This has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). There is currently no therapeutic substance accepted as a panacea for the prophylaxis of this infectious disease. As a result of this back drop many nations have instituted fourteen (14) days quarantine for suspected cases, social distancing and border closure in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. There has been several conspirary theories that emanated since the disease was declared a pandemic. This paper provides useful information to serve as reference to those who seek proper understanding of COVID-19 and its deleterious effects in the body, by distiguishing between the facts and the conspiracy theories of coronavirus disease.
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Favour Obianujunwam Bernard et al. PAMJ - 35(Supp 2):147. 17 Aug 2020. - Page numbers not for citation purposes.
1
Commentary
COVID-19: the trends of conspiracy theories vs facts
Favour Obianujunwam Bernard, Jethro Aaron Akaito, Isaac Joseph, Kenneth Bitrus David
Corresponding author: Favour Obianujunwam Bernard, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu,
Nigeria. junnyangelbernard@gmail.com
Received: 13 Aug 2020 - Accepted: 16 Aug 2020 - Published: 17 Aug 2020
Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, conspiracy theories, facts
Copyright: Favour Obianujunwam Bernard et al. Pan African Medical Journal (ISSN: 1937-8688). This is an Open Access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Cite this article: Favour Obianujunwam Bernard et al. COVID-19: the trends of conspiracy theories vs facts. Pan African
Medical Journal. 2020;35(2):147. 10.11604/pamj.supp.2020.35.147.25536
Available online at: https://www.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/series/35/2/147/full
This article is published as part of the supplement: PAMJ Special issue on COVID 19 in Africa sponsored by the The Pan
African Medical Journal. Available online at https://www.panafrican-med-journal.com//content/series/2/
COVID-19: the trends of conspiracy theories vs
facts
Favour Obianujunwam Bernard1,&, Jethro Aaron
Akaito2, Isaac Joseph3, Kenneth Bitrus David3
1Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Nigeria Nsukka,
Enugu, Nigeria, 2Department of Chemistry, Kaduna
State University, Kaduna, Nigeria, 3Faculty of
Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kaduna State University,
Kaduna, Nigeria
&Corresponding author
Favour Obianujunwam Bernard, Faculty of
Pharmacy, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu,
Nigeria
Abstract
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by SARS-
CoV-2-a new single-stranded RNA virus with
respiratory system proclivity and epithelial cell- is a
novel infectious disease that originated in Wuhan,
China in December, 2019 and has spread to many
countries with the total number of confirmed cases
put at 20,259,579 cases as of 12thAugust, 2020. It is
transmitted from human-to-human via droplets.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these
droplets find their way into the mouth or nostrils of
another person that is within a close range.
Alternatively it can be contracted by touching
infected hard surfaces and using the same hands to
touch the mouth, nose and eye(s). COVID-19 has
Supplement
Favour Obianujunwam Bernard et al. PAMJ - 35(Supp 2):147. 17 Aug 2020. - Page numbers not for citation purposes.
2
been declared a global pandemic by the World
Health Organization (WHO) on 11th March, 2020.
There is currently no therapeutic substance
accepted as a panacea for the prophylaxis of this
infectious disease. As a result of this back drop,
many nations have instituted fourteen (14) days
quarantine for suspected cases, social distancing
and border closure in an attempt to curb the spread
of COVID-19. There has been several conspirary
theories that emanated since the disease was
declared a pandemic. This paper provides useful
information to serve as reference to those who seek
proper understanding of COVID-19 and its
deleterious effects in the body, by distiguishing
between the factsand the conspiracy theoriesof
coronavirus disease.
Commentary
History of COVID-19: COVID-19 which stands for
Corona virus Disease 2019, is an infectious disease
caused by a newly discovered coronavirus strain-
SARS-CoV-2 [1]. The novel corona virus was
discovered in China, linked to a wholesale market
in Wuhan. The mortality rate seems to be higher in
children and older people with underlying medical
problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes,
chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Most of
the younger people infected with SARS-CoV-2 will
experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and
recover without special treatment. Some deaths
were however recorded in middle-aged patients.
Some people are asymptomatic carriers; they can
harbor this virus without showing any significant
symptoms. The virus spreads through droplets from
the respiratory tract, when an infected person
coughs or sneezes, therefore it is recommended
that everyone wears a face mask, maintain a level
of distance from other people, and also adhere to
other precautionary measures so as to minimize
the spread of the virus. Conspiracy has been built
on the idea that corona virus is not new, a suspicion
that has manifested transversely across countries.
Origin based theories defend the artificial nature of
the virus which spread either accidentally or
intentionally. The accident-centered thread blames
without evidence, the virus spread on the
carelessness of the actors involved, who conducted
convert activities (e.g. a bioweapon program went
wrong). The exploitation of resources and
consumers are also pillowed as some suggest a
relation of causality between the epidemic and
intensive breeding.
Multiple Russian sources of deformation
subsequently echoed in other countries,
emphasizing the bacteriological war intent of the
pandemic with assumptions that it originated in the
United States of America or China. Accordingly, the
virus was created in a lab and was released
voluntarily in order to achieve geopolitical (e.g. a
made up story circulated in Italy that an American
veteran was paid to spread the virus to Europe) or
economic gains( e.g. A French research center was
accused of creating the virus in 2004 in order to sell
its patented vaccine). The disease was initially
reported to WHO on December 31st, 2019. On
January 30th2020, WHO declared the COVID-19
outbreak a global health emergency, and on March
11th2020, it was declared a global pandemic by
WHO [2]. In late March and early April, president
Trump of the United States of America repeatedly
proclaimed that hydroxychloroquine could prevent
or treat COVID-19 [3]. Within few days, the number
of prescription for the drug increased even though
there were no substantial evidences as to its
efficacy in the treatment of the viral disease [3].
Trends of conspiracy theories vs facts: since the
emergence of the global lockdown caused by
COVID-19, there has been a lot of controversy
headed by groups of people about the global health
issue which gainsay the underlined facts by the
governing bodies and health practitioners. From
the inception of this global pandemic, there has
always been a contention of who knows better
amongst researchers, doctors and the citizens. It is
as if we are living in the same building but split into
two parts. Many people still doubt the existence of
the COVID-19 virus, to some it is just a game of
politics. Looking at the coronavirus pandemic,
conspiracy theories range from entirely fabricated
content to the instrumentation of tentative or
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3
speculative findings to which absolute certainty is
attributed in what resembles a game of Chinese
whispers [4].
Political manipulation or how to use secret
agenda: conspiracy theories advocate the
existence of secret plots which the powerful elites
hide from the public's eye in a bid to politically
manipulate the people. Many forms of conspiracies
have been ongoing in several countries owing to
how the government has used the COVID-19 as a
tool for getting funds from other nations. Thus
there has been trends of speculations that the
number of confirmed cases are been inflated. In
Nigeria, for instance, there are reports that some
patients who visited the hospital gave information
of how a mere malaria case was recorded as a
COVID-19 case. In Nigeria, the citizens are still
puzzled on how the Nigeria Centre for Disease
Control (NCDC) treats the COVID-19 patients since
WHO has cancelled the use of hydroxychloroquine.
Many Nigerians still doubt the NCDC testing
capacity. In a viral video released via the social
media, a lady was seen dancing continuously to the
chorus "Do you know somebody who knows
somebody, who has corona" Which literally calls
corona virus especially in Nigeria a hoax. Majority
of Nigerians are apoplectic noting that even at such
a high number of COVID-19 cases, none of them
have ever seen a victim of the disease, the only
ones they have seen in a video is just a group of
NCDC officials engaging in mortal combat with their
accused victims. Also there have been claims in
Nigeria at the beginning of the lockdown due to the
pandemic that political activities were still holding
while schools, markets, worship centers were
closed. In recent time, in the metropolis of Kaduna,
Nigeria, all the shops at Kaduna Central Market
have been closed in order to reduce large gathering
of people, but sadly, all the shop owners resorted
to the display of their products on the street,
outside the main market, consequently leading to
congestion of people thereby making the initial
intent for the market closure futile. A further step
in the narrative conspiracy proposes the reluctance
of the government to communicate the real
situation. Accordingly, the goal is to push an
undemocratic and unethical agenda that would
cause public upheavals if known.
Population cleansing is a widespread theory that
emerged in different terms: examples of
conspiracy theories in this class include claims that
China created the virus to solve the overpopulation
problem, whereas in Europe the virus was to
eliminate the elderly. In Nigeria, the conspiracy
theory is that the virus has come to eliminate the
corrupt political leaders of the country. It is also
feared that the pandemic will be used as an excuse
to imposed meddles mass vaccination, whose real
purpose is to implement Orwellian mechanism of
social control. In addition other conspiracy theories
suggest that the lockdown is an excuse to force
people in their homes, while authoritarian
measures are been implemented. A common goal
is to show the collusion of political and economic
powers for evil intent.
Evergreen Conspiracies Step into the shoes of
COVID-19: besides the extensively explored deep
state allegations, other conspiracy theories that do
not entirely fit the previous narratives include: 1)
The prophetic origin of SARS-CoV-2 foreseen by
Nostradamus, Bill gates or the Simpsons. 2) A
revival of anti-sanitism accusing Jewish
communities of speeding the virus for the purpose
of poisoning the gentiles and sacrificing them as
part of religious rituals. 3) Finally, the 5G conspiracy
has also become a narrative of its own primed in
Europe and beyond. Popular claims are that SARS-
CoV-2 is transmitted through 5G antennas and that
the 5G technology has a negative health impact and
thus make individuals vulnerable to the virus.
Cure and medical treatment conspiracy theories: a
number of conspiracy theories confuse the long-
standing existence of COVID-19, therefore claiming
that the cure already existed and in line with the
theory of power, the elite had refused to share it
with the whole population. To illustrate this, in
France some group of Facebook users met the news
of the speedy recovery of Prince Charles despite his
old age with suspicion. In Nigeria there has been
many conspiracies about the existence of the
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4
disease owing that many of the mortality cases
occurs in the elderly age and there has been trend
that people in the age died of merely terminal
disease that is co infection rather than due to the
virus. According to a research which was carried out
by the Solidarity Trials International Steering
committee which was later accepted and approved
by the World Health Organization; WHO, showed
that the drug hydroxychloroquine and some anti-
viral drugs Like lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or
no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-
19 patients when compared to standard of care [5].
WHO accepted their recommendation and
discontinued the treatment of COVID-19 patients
with hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir. In
a recent video released by Dr. Stella Immanuel, she
made an unsubstantial claim that
hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID-19; the
disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. She also claimed
that she has cured about 350 corona virus patients
noting that a mixture of hydroxychloroquine,
azithromycin and zinc sulphate is a permanent cure
for their virus. She added also that neither face
mask nor lockdown are necessary to fight the
pandemic [6]. She accused other doctors, health
practitioners and political heads of state of
concealing the truth from the people. Her video
was also retweeted by Trump to show his support.
The video was deleted by all social media platforms
and termed to be violating COVID-19 rules and
misleading. Remember that Trump had also frozen
US government funding to WHO due to conspiracy
on how it handles COVID-19 pandemic. Also recall
that Madagascar purported a homemade herbal
cure for corona virus, which the president, Andry
Rajoelina applauded and also added that he was
paid millions of dollars by WHO to discontinue the
production of the drug, but as of 9thAugust, the
number of confirmed COVID-19 patients has
reached to13,086 with about 2,122 active cases
and 148 deaths [7,8]. One will question if the herbal
drug does not work again?
Conclusion
Many conspiracies have evolved due to this novel
coronavirus disease, some having some facts that
could be true. Amongst all these conspiracy,
nevertheless, Corona virus disease exists and is a
pandemic that may stand the test of time for a
while before its elimination. The truth and the fact
still remains that as for now, there is no approved
permanent medication or prescription that can
efficiently combat the corona virus and the best
treatment one could offer to oneself is keeping the
precautionary measures outlined by WHO and the
government, which includes; regular washing of
hands, use of hand sanitizers, maintaining physical
distance up to one-feet apart. Most importantly,
we should be wise enough to stop the spread of
fake news concerning COVID-19 and linking
everything to religious misconception,
Nonetheless, Vaccines have been proposed and not
yet proved to be efficacious. Note also "prevention
is better than cure and a healthy man is a wealthy
man".
Competing interests
Authors declare no competing interests.
Authors' contributions
Kenneth Bitrus David conceived the idea while
Favour Obianujunwam Bernard, Jethro Aaron
Akaito, and Isaac Joseph drafted the primary
manuscript; Kenneth Bitrus David reviewed and
prepared it for publication. All the authors have
read and agreed to the final manuscript.
References
1. World Health Organization. Coronavirus.
Accessed on 10thAugust, 2020.
2. World Health Organization. Coronavirus
disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report-52.
Accessed on 12thAugust, 2020.
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3. Richard LK. When Trump pushed
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despite little evidence that it worked. Accessed
on 12thAugust, 2020.
4. EU Disinfo Lab. Comparative trend of
conspiracy theory about Corona virus disease.
Accessed on 12thAugust, 2020.
5. World Health Organization. WHO discontinues
hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir
treatment arms for COVID-19. Accessed on
11thAugust, 2020.
6. Travis MA, Danielle P. Trump retweeted a video
with fake COVID-19 claims. One doctor in it said
demons cause illness. Accessed on 11thAugust,
2020.
7. David KB, Thomas N, Solomon JK. Epidemiology
of COVID-19 in Africa: daily cumulative index
and mortality rate. Int J Infect Control. 2020;
v16: i2. Google Scholar
8. CNN. Madagascar reimposes lockdown in
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2020. Accessed 12th August, 2020.
... It has been observed to affect the sentiments of people, especially when endorsed by influential people or political leaders that tends to have severe negative downstream effects. Vaccine hesitancy is one such example that has severely compromised the fight against COVID-19 [21]. Lwin et al. advocated that negative emotions need to be monitored and countered with strategic public health communication [18]. ...
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... Most conspiracies are quite cynical with a general theme of questioning institutional powers, such as implications of collusion by large pharma companies who are accused of hiding a cure for the COVID-19 virus to maximise profit (Bernard et al., 2020). However, during the current pandemic, more extreme narratives have found disproportionately wide acceptance. ...
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... As we move from the response phase into recovery, the pandemic's direct and broader impacts on individuals, households, and communities will influence the capacity to recover. An understanding of these impacts is therefore required to develop priorities to support recovery (Bernard et al., 2020). COVID-19 pandemic has affected many homes and families. ...
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... ACE-2 catalyses the conversion of angiotensin-II to angiotensin-I -an anti-inflammatory enzyme and antioxidant vital against lung Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) [7]. Upon binding with ACE-2, SARS-CoV-2 degrades it, making the free angiotensin-II to induce acute lung injury [9,10]. ...
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When Trump pushed hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of prescription followed despite little evidence that it worked
  • L K Richard
Richard LK. When Trump pushed hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of prescription followed despite little evidence that it worked. Accessed on 12 th August, 2020.
Trump retweeted a video with fake COVID-19 claims. One doctor in it said demons cause illness
  • M A Travis
Travis MA, Danielle P. Trump retweeted a video with fake COVID-19 claims. One doctor in it said demons cause illness. Accessed on 11 th August, 2020.