A customer buys grocery at a store in the center of Montpellier, south of France, on March 25, 2020, on the ninth day of a strict lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP / Pascal Guyot)

Philippine hospital shot down misleading claims linking COVID-19 to grocery shopping

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A claim that data from a hospital in the Philippines shows a correlation between grocery shopping and COVID-19 has been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. This is misleading; the hospital refuted the claim, saying "no such observed trend" had been found among its COVID-19 patients.

The claim has been shared more than 1,600 times after being published in this Facebook post on April 4, 2020. 

The Tagalog-language meme in the post translates to English as: "From PGH statistics. Their new cases of Covid. The history of movement. They only went to the Grocery."

PGH is an acronym for Philippine General Hospital, a state-owned hospital located in the capital Manila.

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:

Screenshot of Facebook post

Similar claims were shared here, here and here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

These claims are misleading; Philippine General Hospital said it did not find any correlation between grocery shopping and COVID-19.

In a statement posted on Facebook on April 4, 2020, the hospital said: “There is no such observed trend with our admitted COVID-19 (+) patients acquiring the illness from groceries.

“The two most important risk factors noted are (1) travel history from areas with known local transmission and, (2) close contact with COVID-19 (+) patients.”

Below is a screenshot of the statement: 

Screenshot of PGH statement

Several health organisations at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight have said that while the novel coronavirus could spread from contaminated objects, the primary transmission mode appears to be person-to-person.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states in a fact sheet: “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person… It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) also says: “It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces... Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).”

Both the CDC and WHO recommend frequent hand washing and routine cleaning of surfaces to reduce infection risk. 

COVID-19 was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since spread globally. As of April 10, 2020, WHO data shows the disease has killed more than 85,000 people and infected over 1.4 million others worldwide.