Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Coronavirus: More than a fifth of people in England believe Covid-19 is a hoax

Those who believe conspiracies are less likely to comply with social-distancing guidelines, scientists say

Sarah Young
Friday 22 May 2020 11:10 BST
Eamonn Holmes responds to backlash over 5G coronavirus controversy

More than a fifth of people believe that the coronavirus crisis is a hoax, new research suggests.

The study, conducted by the University of Oxford, saw 2,500 English adults take part in the Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey between 4-11 May 2020.

The team of clinical psychologists state that the data from the survey indicates a large number of adults in England do not agree with the scientific and governmental consensus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the results, almost three fifths (59% per cent) of adults in England believe to some extent that the government is misleading the public about the cause of the virus.

Similarly, more than a fifth (21 per cent) believe the virus is a hoax, and 62 per cent agree to some extent that the virus is man-made.

When asked whether they believed that coronavirus is a bio-weapon developed by China to destroy the West, 55 per cent said they did not agree, 20.2 per cent said they agreed a little and 5.5 per cent agreed completely.

Meanwhile 79 per cent said they did not agree that coronavirus is caused by 5G.

“Such ideas were associated with paranoia, general vaccination conspiracy beliefs, climate change conspiracy belief, a conspiracy mentality, and distrust in institutions and professions,” the scientists wrote in the journal Psychological Medicine.

“Holding coronavirus conspiracy beliefs was also associated with being more likely to share opinions.”

Researchers found that approximately 50 per cent of this population showed little evidence of conspiracy thinking, while 25 per cent showed a degree of endorsement, 15 per cent showed a consistent pattern of endorsement, and 10 per cent had very high levels of endorsement.

The team also said that higher levels of coronavirus conspiracy thinking were associated with less adherence to all government guidelines and less willingness to take diagnostic or antibody tests or to be vaccinated.

Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology, University of Oxford, and consultant clinical psychologist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation, said: “Our study indicates that coronavirus conspiracy beliefs matter.

“Those who believe in conspiracy theories are less likely to follow government guidance, for example, staying home, not meeting with people outside their household, or staying two metres apart from other people when outside.

“Those who believe in conspiracy theories also say that they are less likely to accept a vaccination, take a diagnostic test, or wear a face mask.”

Last month, Facebook deleted two groups from its site for promoting conspiracy theories linking 5G towers to the coronavirus outbreak.

The “Stop 5G UK” and “Destroy 5G Save Our Children” pages, which together had more than 62,000 members, were removed following admin violations relating to Facebook's policies about publicising crime.

Members of the active groups praised recent arson attacks on phone masts and suggested armed uprisings could disrupt the roll-out of the next-generation mobile technology.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in