Volunteers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) pray in front of bodies of Covid-19 victims at a cemetery in Mandalay, Myanmar, on July 14, 2021. ( AFP / STR)

Facebook posts share false claim that Singapore conducted the world's first Covid-19 autopsy

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Facebook posts share a claim attributed to Singapore's Ministry of Health saying that the city-state conducted the first Covid-19 autopsy and discovered the disease is caused by a bacterium, not a virus. But the claims are false: the first Covid-19 autopsy was conducted in China in February 2020. Health authorities and medical experts all say Covid-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Singapore's Health Ministry have also said the claims are not true.

The claim was published here on Facebook on July 17, 2021.

The post's lengthy caption, written in English and Mandarin, partly says: "Singapore has become the first country in the world to conduct an autopsy (post-mortem) on Covid-19 corpses. After a thorough investigation, it was discovered that Covid-19 does not exist as a virus, but a bacterium that is exposed to radiation and coagulates the blood to cause human death.

"In order to find out the reason for the lack of breathing energy, doctors in Singapore did not follow WHO's procedures, but performed an autopsy for COVID-19."

The text is attributed to "the Ministry of Health of Singapore".

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on July 19, 2021 ( AFP)

Similar claims are shared in both Chinese and English on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here.

But the claims are false.

First autopsy on a Covid-19 victim

The first Covid-19 autopsy was conducted on an 85-year-old Chinese man in January 2020, according to the examination report published here by China's Journal of Forensic Medicine in February 2020.

Singapore reported its first two Covid-19-related deaths on March 21, 2020, as reported here by local English-daily newspaper The Straits Times.

Responding to the misleading posts, the Singaporean Ministry of Health said on June 7, 2021 that the content "is NOT true" and "Singapore has not performed such an autopsy."

The WHO published guidelines about handling the bodies of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients in March 2020.

Covid-19 is caused by a virus

Medical experts and global health bodies, including the WHO, have said that Covid-19 is caused by a virus, not a bacterium.

National health authorities — in Singapore as well as in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the Philippines — all agree that the disease is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2.

It is also supported by scientific research in various countries, such as Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea and France.

Antibiotics do not cure the disease, but may be given to Covid-19 patients to prevent bacterial co-infection, according to the WHO.

Dr Sylvie Briand, WHO director of global infectious hazard preparedness, says in this video: "Using antibiotics to treat Covid-19 will not help, because it's a virus and not a bacteria. But what we have seen in some hospitalized patients is that they were given antibiotics, not to treat Covid-19, but to prevent superinfection by other bacteria because some people are really fragile and we fear that on top of Covid-19, they can get also another bacterial infection."

AFP has debunked multiple other false claims that Covid-19 is a bacterial disease, for example here, here, here and here.