It has been 6 weeks since the lockdown of Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and as per the latest published information, number of reported cases were over 90,000 with almost 3200 deaths. While the rate of infection has normalized in China to a certain extent, the latest trends indicate worldwide threat of spread of COVID-19 with cases reported from 77 countries. The pressure on WHO to declare the situation as a pandemic is increasing.
We have debunked a number of stories ever since the wave of misinformation regarding possible cures for Corona virus, proper use of facial masks and preventive care best practices started. With concerns over shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the world, many organizations have offered aid and United Nations had released US$15 million to help vulnerable countries battle the spread of the coronavirus.
In this backdrop, we noticed a number of messages circulating on WhatsApp and posts on Facebook with an extended narrative of these messages claiming to be a bulletin from UNICEF on information about COVID-19 and how the virus transmits and possible preventive measures.
Below are the screenshots of two such posts shared by Indian users with the following bulletin
The corona virus is large in size with a cell diameter of 400-500 micro, so any mask prevents its entry & there is no need to exploit pharmacists to trade with muzzles.
The virus does not settle in the air, but on the ground, so it is not transmitted by the air.
The corona virus, when it falls on a metal surface, will live for 12 hours, so washing hands with soap and water well will do the trick.
Corona virus when it falls on fabrics stays for 9 hours so washing clothes or exposing them to the sun for two hours is enough for the purpose of killing him.
The virus lives on the hands for 10 minutes so putting the alcohol sanitizer in the pocket is enough for the purpose of prevention.
If the virus is exposed to a temperature of 26-27°C, it will be killed, it does not live in hot areas. Also drinking hot water and exposure to the sun is good enough.
Stay away from ice cream and cold food is important.
Gargling with warm water and salt kills tonsils and prevents them from leaking into the lungs.
Adhering to these instructions is sufficient to prevent the virus.
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The translated version of these narrative were shared across many local languages and below is a screenshot of such a post in Sri Lanka
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Since the information contained in these posts were different from the standard globally accepted health advisory measures issued by organizations like WHO and CDC, we carried out a fact-check and found this message to be misleading.
We contacted UNICEF’s Sri Lankan office in order to verify if any message similar to the one shared was published in any UNICEF office around the world. Mr. Jeremy Sprigge, Communication Specialist of UNICEF Sri Lanka confirmed that “these messages are NOT UNICEF statements and henceforth FALSE” and that an official communication regarding the same would be published via UNICEF’s social media channels.
Therefore, we inspected UNICEF Sri Lanka Social Media Channels and noticed the below official statements in English and Sinhala.
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We inspected UNICEF’s global website and found response to these misinformation. We found a video post on UNICEF’s official Twitter account on advice on preventive measures as below clearing the wave of misinformation.
As mentioned in the above video message, UNICEF advices public not to fall for misinformation related to Coronavirus and requested to follow verified sources such as UNICEF and WHO’s official websites for accurate information on latest developments and preventive care guidelines.
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Furthermore, we contacted Dr. Ashan Pathirana, Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau Registrar and he clarified that the claims made in the viral message and unscientific and baseless.
From our investigation, it is clear that any office of UNICEF has not released an advisory similar to one shared across social media platforms on information about coronavirus, modes of transmission and preventive measures. The official communique by UNICEF has clarified that this bulletin about Coronavirus was not issue by their organization.
Title:Truth behind the Viral UNICEF message about Coronavirus!Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe