False claim circulates on Facebook that people cannot catch COVID-19 from infected people or contaminated surfaces
Multiple Facebook posts shared hundreds of times claim that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, does not spread “from person to person”. The posts also claim that people cannot become infected by touching contaminated surfaces. The claims are false; international health authorities say COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person and by touching contaminated surfaces.
The claims were published here in a Facebook post. The post has been shared more than 140 times.
The post states “YOU’VE BEEN LIED TO!” and lists the following claims:
“* You can not catch Covid-19 from person to person.”
“* You can not catch Covid-19 from touching surfaces.”
“* Viruses are dead material expelled from healing cells.”
“* Everyone has thousands of viruses inside their body.”
“* Government & MSM News are lying to ALL for CONTROL, neglect elderly & sick, cull small businesses & social engineering.”
The post goes on to state “Research alternative views, knowledge & information” and lists a number of purported doctors.
The post circulated during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of August 12, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has infected more than 20 million people and killed an estimated 738,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The claims, however, are false.
COVID-19 can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets “produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks”, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC website reads.
The University of New South Wales' Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response group compiled a list of important studies that document how COVID-19 spreads here.
Contrary to the claims made in the Facebook post, people can also be infected with COVID-19 if they touch contaminated surfaces or objects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“People with the virus in their noses and throats may leave infected droplets on objects and surfaces when they sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails.
“Other people may become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths before cleaning their hands,” the WHO’s website states.
The University of Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine summarised key studies on the transmission dynamics of COVID-19, including via contaminated surfaces, here.
‘Healing cells’ claim
Viruses are not “dead material being expelled from healing cells”, as the misleading posts claim. In fact, they are tiny microbes containing either DNA or RNA that infect cells in order to replicate.
There is, however, some debate over whether viruses are living or non-living. Viruses are regarded as existing in a grey area between “living” and “nonliving”, according to University of California Irvine microbiologist Luis P. Villareal.
“They cannot replicate on their own, but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behaviour of their hosts profoundly,” Prof. Villareal said in this 2005 paper on the subject.
Humans do naturally harbour viruses, but the majority are bacteriophage which infect and replicate inside bacteria. This differs from pathogenic viruses like SARS-CoV-2, HIV or Ebola, which infect human cells.
'Google these doctors'
The misleading post also lists four purported medical professionals and urges readers to "Google these doctors". However, the individuals have been widely discredited and criticised for promoting misinformation related to COVID-19.
Judy Mikovits, for instance, was featured in the thoroughly debunked “Plandemic” film and Rashid Buttar has promoted conspiracy theories in YouTube videos that were removed by the platform for violating COVID-19 misinformation policies.
AFP Fact Check has debunked more than 590 pieces of false or misleading information related to the novel coronavirus crisis. A complete list of our fact checks on the topic in English can be found here.