On February 4, 2021, Facebook user Giorgi Danelia shared Igor Isaev’s Russian-language post with Georgian translation in the group „კორონა მაფია“ (Corona Mafia). The author of the post claims that coronavirus doesn't exist, whereas COVID-19 a new name for influenza; According to the post, scientists admitted that they weren't able to isolate the virus, and Ireland admitted that they don’t have any scientific evidence proving the existence of SAR-CoV-2 following the lawsuit against the government. What’s more, the author cites 2020 mortality statistics in Sweden, where, per his claims, no restrictions were imposed, as proof that pandemic does not exist and believes diagnosing the virus with PCR is a fraud
Disseminated information about COVID-19 isn’t true, sources that the post is based on are unreliable and are known for disseminating conspiracy theories and disinformation. In reality, 1) the virus was isolated in China, as well as the U.S. and other states 2) COVID-19 virus isn't identical to influenza, it's a disease that is caused by SARS-CoV-2; 3) Allegation about Irish government admitting they have no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 existence is false; 4) Mortality statistics in Sweden doesn't prove that the virus doesn't exist; 5) Death rate in Europe significantly increased in 2020 compared to previous years.
COVID-19 virus isolation
It should be noted that isolating the virus from infected people means obtaining a pure sample of the virus to study it. Official information confirms that specialists from different countries, including China as the first state, have isolated the virus
NBC aired a story discussing the origins of the novel coronavirus. It’s said that the first cluster of cases was traced to the Wuhan market, however, it's still unclear if it was the primary source of the virus or not. The post quotes Wu Zunyou, chief infectious disease specialist at China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, - “They didn’t isolate the virus”, however it doesn’t imply the virus doesn’t exist. The aforesaid quote is used in a different context and it actually asks questions about the origins of the virus. Wu Zunyou, as well as representatives of the Chinese government, believe that the virus was brought to China from abroad.
Before, Peking University published video footage from Beijing Forum held in December 2020, where Wu Zunyou speaks about the novel coronavirus and virus isolation. Zunyou notes that on January 7, 2020, China isolated the virus strain and identified it as a novel coronavirus, and on January 13, China shared the genome sequence with the WHO. The webpage of the U.S National Library of Medicine published the complete genome of isolated virus taken at early stages, as well as its renewed version.
Claim alleging that U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) admitted that there’s no isolated SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t true. Document the post cites dates to January 12 and notes that they didn’t have isolated SARS-CoV-2 at the time of PRC testing. According to the information verified by Reuters, the scientific process described in the CDC document is misrepresented. The document actually describes what was used to determine the lowest amount of viral genetic material the RT-PCR assay could detect. Therefore, the aim was to assess the "sensitivity" of PCR tests.
On January 20,2020 U.S. Center for Disease Control received a clinical specimen collected from the first reported U.S. patient infected with SARS-CoV-2. The article published in June 2020 describes in detail how was SARS-CoV-2 isolated and how essential is the isolated virus for developing vaccines and tests.
SARS-CoV-2 virus sequence
Tom Cowan, whose information the post cites, notes that sequencing the genome was conducted without virus isolation. However, the article of the U.S. Center for Disease Control describes the process of virus isolation before the sequencing of the genome. Nucleic acid was extracted from the isolated virus before sequencing the genome.
Myth Detector has previously written about Tom Cowan disseminating conspiracy theories about the connection between 5G and coronavirus. Moreover, his medical practice is limited, he had offered an unlicensed drug to a breast cancer patient, who was not informed it was not approved for use.
Did the Irish government admit COVID-19 isn't real?
Information disseminated by the Irish journalist Gemma O’Doherty alleging that the Irish government admitted it has no proof of the existence of the virus is not true. According to the journalist, she, under the freedom of information act, requested public information on the evidence that SARS-CoV-2 exists from the Healthcare Services. However, the organization responded that they held no record in relation to her request.
The Journal that fact-checked the aforesaid information notes that the journalist misinterpreted the refusal to provide public information. In reality, Healthcare Services didn't grant the request because they didn't hold such a record since the existence of SAR-CoV-2 is a clear, scientifically proven fact; Moreover, the request for public information itself was vague, which, under the Irish legislation, are the two legitimate bases to refuse the request.
It’s worth mentioning that the web-page Principia Scientific that the post is based on and which disseminates the information of journalist Gemma O’Doherty is an unreliable source. Media Bias Fact Check that determines the bias quality of media outlets labels Principia Scientific as a conspiracy and pseudoscience website that promotes anti-vaccine propaganda and disseminates disinformation regarding climate change
Moreover, information disseminated by Gemma O’Doherty was fact-checked by Reuters as well. According to Irish News, O'Doherty has previously uploaded videos peddling conspiracy theories and railing against LGBT people, Muslims, and immigrants. Her Youtube channel has been blocked for breaching the "hate speech" policy.
Mortality statistics in Sweden doesn't prove that the virus doesn't exist;
It should be noted, that LiveJournal, which is referenced as the source of the post, is a social media and platform hybrid, where materials generated by the users can be posted.
It is true, that Sweden did not introduce strict measures nor implement restrictions, but notably, according to the provisional data from Statistics Sweden, the death rate had relatively risen in 12-26 and 45-53 weeks of 2020, and has exceeded the 2015-2019 average. Moreover, the death rate caused by Corona is higher, than in neighboring Finland, Norway, and Denmark.
Mortality statistics of Sweden does not provide proof that a novel coronavirus does not exist. As “Myth Detector” wrote based on the data from the project of mortality monitoring of 27 European countries (EuroMOMO), compared to the years of 2018 and 2019, the number of deceased has risen drastically in European countries in 2020.
Using PCR tests to detect the novel coronavirus
It is noteworthy, that PCR tests are considered as the “golden standard” and “Myth Detector” has written about this in the past.
Concerning the original Russian post citing Ian Davis’s opinion about PCR tests, which referenced Off-Guardian.org as the source, bias quality is determined by Media Bias Fact Check noting, that Off-Guardian.org spreads conspiracy theories as well as Russian propaganda. Recently, it has been promoting anti-vaccination propaganda as well. Moreover, according to the information of Media Bias Fact Check, the article titled “Covid-19 PCR tests are scientifically absurd” was a failed attempt at rechecking facts.
Covid-19 and influenza are diseases caused by different viruses
The statement, that coronavirus is a new name for influenza is not in accordance with the truth and Robert Oswald, who is a professor at Cornell University and who was attributed as the author of the information, has not written anything alike. This information, which went viral, was fact-checked by Politifact. Oswald himself stated at the website of Cornell University: “COVID-19 is real. Any Facebook post that claims the opposite is a lie and does not reflect the truth.”
According to the John Hopkins School of Medicine, the novel coronavirus, as well as influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between them. COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), whereas A and B viruses cause influenza.
According to information by the WHO, compared to COVID-19, influenza has a relatively short median incubation period (the time between getting infected and appearance of symptoms). Furthermore, there is a difference between their structures as well. The coronavirus is comprised of a single-stranded, non-segmented RNA and has the so-called "spike proteins", whereas the influenza virus is comprised of an 8 segment RNA and has a collaborative function of two viral surface proteins.
Prepared by Lusine Pichikiani
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