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Coronavirus: From a Chinese lab to eating garlic, the Covid-19 conspiracy theories Britons believe

Survey reveals public susceptibility to unfounded claims about how to beat Covid-19

Peter Stubley
Wednesday 08 April 2020 12:48 BST
Idris Elba blasts coronavirus conspiracy theories

One in five British adults wrongly think that coronavirus originated in a laboratory in China, according to a new survey.

The myth is one of several unfounded claims widely believed by the public due to a host of conspiracy theories, hoaxes, misinformation and fake advice.

It was based on speculation that Covid-19 may have developed in bats kept in a government laboratory in the city of Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the virus. Some online reports even suggested it was genetically engineered by scientists.

However, the theory, which 21 per cent of people said was definitely or probably true, was not the most popular myth tested by a YouGov survey of more than 2000 adults in Great Britain.

Nearly a third (32 per cent) believe that vodka can be used as hand sanitiser and more than a quarter think coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to a month.

A similar proportion believe face masks protect you from the illness when the they only reduce the chances of becoming infected.

Other unfounded claims were spread on social media in a chain message purporting to be an email to NHS staff.

It stated that drinking water every 15 minutes will flush out the virus and that being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds without any discomfort proves you are not infected. The survey found both claims were believed by one in six adults (16 per cent).

Four per cent of Britons said that eating garlic would definitely or probably help prevent coronavirus. The false belief landed one Chinese woman in hospital with an inflamed throat after she ate 1.5kg of raw garlic, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

Only one per cent believed that cocaine can help coronavirus, although 18 per cent were not sure.

The survey also found that more men (24 per cent) than women (16 per cent) believe coronavirus is "just like the flu", when the mortality rate is higher. Men are also less inclined to believe official government advice on staying at home and social distancing.

Analysing respondents by their vote in the 2016 referendum showed that Leave voters (26 per cent) were more likely to believe the Chinese lab myth than Remain voters (16 per cent).

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