Health care workers walk through the Humber River Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, in Toronto, Canada in April 2021 ( AFP / Cole Burston)

Posts mislead about coronavirus response in Canada, Japan, Germany

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Facebook posts say Canada's Alberta province lifted all coronavirus pandemic measures, Germany suspended licenses for Covid-19 vaccines, and Japan is recommending the drug ivermectin as a treatment for the disease. But the posts -- some of which include claims about Romania as well as Denmark -- repeat inaccurate assertions that have been previously fact-checked by AFP.

"Should you feel the need to fact check ....please do so, but use duckduckgo search engine so that google can't censor your search results, thx," says an August 30, 2021 Facebook post that includes an image of text making claims about various countries.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on September 14, 2021

More examples of the claim -- part of a torrent of false or misleading information about the pandemic that has circulated on social media as countries work to protect their populations against Covid-19 -- appeared on Facebook here and here, while a similar image was posted on Instagram.

Below, AFP Fact Check examines the claims.

Claim: "Province of Alberta ends all COVID restrictions, after failing to prove that COVID-19 has ever been isolated in human tissue."

AFP Fact Check previously reported that this is false.

A court case brought by an Alberta resident to dispute a fine he received for violating the provincial public health act was unsuccessful, and the government said it was unrelated to the lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions that took place over the summer.

With Covid-19 vaccines widely available, the Canadian province had decided remove most of its pandemic public health measures starting in late July. But after cases rose again, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said some restrictions would be kept in place.

Masks are currently mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, and isolation is legally required for people who have tested positive for Covid-19.

It is also false to claim that SARS-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes Covid-19 -- has not been isolated. Researchers have isolated the virus in Canada and in the United States. The genetic code is published in GenBank, the US National Institutes of Health database that includes publicly available DNA sequences.

Claim: "Germany suspends vaccine licenses for the next two weeks, placing a moratorium on the vaxx, pending safety concerns and stopping all vaccinations for now."

Germany has not suspended licenses for Covid-19 vaccines, and shots are recommended for everyone over the age of 12 in the country.

A spokesperson for Germany's Federal Ministry of Health told AFP on September 8 that "four vaccines are currently approved in the EU, all of which are also used in Germany. In Germany, a vaccine is only approved if it successfully passes all three phases of the clinical trial program and has a positive benefit-risk ratio."

This false claim gained traction after a video of a simulation, produced by an anti-lockdown group, circulated online.

The coronavirus skeptic group that refers to itself as the "Corona Committee" said on September 9 that the clip was filmed as "part of the Global Pandemic EXIT Exercise."

Claim: "Japan recalls 1.63 million vials of the Moderna vaccine and Health Minister advocates Ivermectin."

Moderna said on September 1 that batches of its Covid-19 vaccine sent to Japan were contaminated with stainless steel particles. This contamination resulted in the country halting the use of 1.63 million doses, according to the health ministry and drugmaker Takeda, which is in charge of the distribution of the Moderna shot in Japan.

But the posts mislead on Japan's official position on the antiparasitic drug ivermectin. As AFP Fact Check reported here, ivermectin is not an approved Covid-19 treatment in Japan.

The official guidelines for doctors from the Japanese Ministry of Health state that "compared to standard treatment and placebo, ivermectin did not reduce deaths, shorten the hospitalization period and improve time of virus disappearance."

Clinical trials to use ivermectin against Covid-19 are ongoing around the world, but a recent spike in off-label prescriptions prompted the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) to release a statement warning of the potential harmful effects of the drug if misused.

Similarly, Health Canada released a notice on August 31 warning people against using veterinary ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19.

"Health Canada has received concerning reports of the use of veterinary ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid-19. Canadians should never consume health products intended for animals because of the potential serious health dangers posed by them," it said in the statement.

Claim: "Denmark ends all COVID restrictions, including the Vaccine Passport."

On September 10, Denmark became the only European country to have no Covid-19 curbs in place. However, travelers entering the country must still present either a vaccine passport or a negative PCR test, and masks are mandatory in airports.

The country had introduced a "corona passport" in March 2021 -- allowing people to show proof of vaccination, previous infection or evidence of a recent negative test -- but it is no longer required for entry to large indoor events or non-essential services such as indoor dining at restaurants.

Denmark made the decision to drop restrictions with 73 percent of it 5.8 million population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Another version of the image omits the claim about Alberta, but includes one about vaccination in Romania.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on September 14, 2021

Claim: "Romania: Government has started shutting down vax centers as more than 70% of the population refuse the vax."

Romania has administered 9.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine and 27.13 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy is not the sole reason the numbers remain low. The country's vaccination campaign has been hampered by a lack of medical professionals, particularly in rural areas.

An official at Romania's National Coordinating Committee for Activities on Vaccination against Covid-19 (CNCAV) said on September 3 that some Covid-19 vaccination centers had been temporarily wound down, but that shots were still available at centers across the country. "The centers have not been closed permanently," the official said.

AFP has fact-checked more than 1,000 claims related to the coronavirus pandemic, available here.