Clerics Spread Conspiracy Theories about COVID-19 on Qadageba.ge

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On October 23, 2020, Facebook page qadageba.ge posted a video titled “Pandemic or Corona Hoax,” where four clerics, including Davit Isakadze, Davit Kvlividze, Davit Sulashvili and Archil Kituashvili speak about the restrictions imposed in Georgia and throughout the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the regulations imposed on churches. The clerics claim that coronavirus fears are exaggerated, adding that in fact, the pandemic has been imposed on the world population, whereas the practice of physical distancing and other precautions in churches are “sacrilegious” and “blasphemous” acts. Thus, Davit Sulashvili, one of the clerics featuring in the video, calls on the parish to defy possible new strict restrictions and gather in churches without wearing face masks or observing physical distancing.

Archpriest Davit Sulashvili: “As for the inhumanely strict measures introduced worldwide and in our country, we state loudly that if these restrictions, like it happened in spring, again involve measures to restrict praying in Orthodox churches that is equal to restricting our religious right to expression, we will defy such restrictions and will call on our parish to come to churches without any face masks and physical distancing and use a common communion spoon during the Holy Communion.”

As of September 27, 2020, the video posted by qadageba.ge has over 2,900 shares. Online media outlets Tvalsazrisi.ge and TVM-News published news about the video address.

dfgv Clerics Spread Conspiracy Theories about COVID-19 on Qadageba.ge

Besides the calls to defy restrictions, the video address posted by the clerics involves six disinformation and two conspiratorial claims about the World Health Organization, coronavirus statistics, Bill Gates and PCR tests. Below we review disinformation and conspiratorial claims voiced in the video address spread by qadageba.ge.

Disinformation No.1: The World Health Organization was not guided by definition of a pandemic when declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.

Archpriest Davit Kvlividze said that the World Health Organization was not guided by definition of a pandemic and epidemic when declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. The archpriest claims that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic after 90,000 people, i.e. 0.001% of the world population, got infected. In fact, the classical definition of a pandemic used by the WHO does not specify minimum number of infected people when the outbreak should be declared a pandemic.

WHO: “A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.”

On March 11, 2020, when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, there were more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people lost their lives. Of the cases reported globally, more than 90 percent of cases were reported in China and the Republic of Korea. It is just when the virus started spreading internationally. The WHO said in its March 11 statement that when declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, it was guided not only by the number of confirmed cases, but also by several other factors, including by the alarming levels of spread and severity, as well as by the alarming levels of inaction.

Disinformation No.2: Bill Gates has bribed the World Health Organization to declare COVID-19 a pandemic

Archpriest Davit Kvlividze said that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic upon Bill Gates’ instructions. He claims that after the U.S. President halted funding to the WHO, Bill Gates transferred USD 50 million to it that was followed by declaring COVID-19 a pandemic the very next day.

Davit Kvlividze’s claim is not true. The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, whereas U.S. President Donald Trump stated about halting partnership between the United States and the WHO on April 15, 2020. A day later, on April 16, the private foundation belonging to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife condemned Trump’s decision and pledged additional USD 150 million to fight the pandemic. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long been one of the largest and open donors of the World Health Organization.

The disinformation is apparently linked to the statement made by Bill Gates in February when he said that the coronavirus was a pandemic, calling on the WHO and various countries to launch preparations for tackling the upcoming crisis. Back then, the WHO refrained from declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, but said after the virus started spreading rapidly in countries outside of China that the virus had “pandemic potential” to spread freely globally.

Disinformation No.3: During the 2005 meeting in Pentagon, Bill Gates presented a vaccine for religious fundamentalism, as well as a microchip.

Davit Sulashvili said that Bill Gates held a meeting in the Pentagon in 2005, where he allegedly spoke about the vaccine and microchips to neutralize religious fundamentalism. To prove his words, Sulashvili added that it is planned “to correct” the world population by means of the virus (though not exactly the coronavirus). This is a false fact.

Disinformation about Bill Gates allegedly holding a meeting in the Pentagon in 2005 emerged after a video went viral on social media, featuring a man talking in a conference hall about “God gene” and a possible “vaccine”. The video was shared widely by conspiratorial blogs, pages and portals, prompting Reuters to verify its authenticity and conclude that it was a false claim. As it appeared, the presenter is not Bill Gates. The scientific context of the meeting is also unclear. Neither is it clear what is meant under “God gene.” The video includes images of brain scans that, according to Reuters, are coming from a 2010 case article.

Disinformation No.4: People who died in Italy actually died from other diseases rather than the coronavirus. There are only several hundreds of confirmed coronavirus deaths.

In the video address, Archpriest Davit Kvlividze claims that the coronavirus does not pose as much threat to humans as being reported. He cites an example of Italy, where, according to him, number of people who died of COVID-19 on May 21 totaled only 124 patients instead of 3,000 as reported. The archpriest also noted that the coronavirus statistics are being inflated in Italy and other death cases are also attributed to COVID-19 in order “to frighten people.”

To prove his words, Kvlividze refers to Italian virologist, Giulio Tarro. But in fact, the latter’s claims represent manipulations with figures spread in Georgian social networks earlier. 3,032 people died of coronavirus in Italy on May 21. 124 of them had underlying medical conditions. It, however, does not mean that the coronavirus had not been the cause of death among patients with underlying medical conditions.

Below is Myth Detector’s earlier publication regarding the issue:

Disinformation No.5: Special Investigation Commission has been set up to prepare legal proceedings on coronavirus fraud as “a crime against humanity.” 

Archpriest Davit Isakadze noted that a Special Investigation Commission has been set up to investigate the coronavirus fraud, because fabrication of the coronavirus pandemic is the same crime against humanity as fascism. This information was really spread on Georgian and Russian social media. The spread videos featured German lawyer and seven doctors claiming that in fact, it is impossible to detect the coronavirus through PCR tests and therefore, they plan to file a lawsuit against false pandemic. These claims, however, triggered no official response, while the allegations about fabrication of the pandemic lack evidence.

Below are Myth Detector’s earlier publications regarding the issue:

Disinformation No.6: Virus is put in PCR tests and people are infected after using them

Archpriest Davit Sulashvili notes in the video address that people are deliberately infected with the coronavirus through PCR tests. To prove his words, Sulashvili refers to the case that took place on March 30, 2020, when the UK detected traces of the coronavirus in PCR tests delivered from the United States. Davit Sulashvili refers to British daily newspaper The Telegraph as the source.

Although the above fact really took place on March 30, 2020, according to the Telegraph, tests were discovered to be contaminated with coronavirus before the launch of mass testing that prompted the British government to think over producing alternative tests. Later on April 18, 2020, the Washington Post, an American daily newspaper, also reported that U.S. test kits for detecting the novel coronavirus were contaminated with the coronavirus pathogens. Like in case of the UK, the contamination was detected at the lab that delayed rollout of coronavirus tests.

Thus, Sulashvili’s generalization of the above facts to PCR tests is false. There were no cases of infecting patients through the tests. PCR tests are absolutely safe, especially as they are usually done by taking nasal or oral smear, or in some cases – saliva sample and they have no direct contact with patients.

Below is Myth Detector’s earlier publication regarding the issue:

Conspiracy theory No.1: A swab stick is unnaturally long and it is used not for taking smear, but for implanting nanotechnology in human body

Davit Sulashvili said that in some doctors’ opinion, a swab stick used during PCR testing is suspiciously long, they go deep into a nose and apparently, they are used not for taking smear but for other purposes – for example, infecting people or implanting microorganisms in human body. Such claims have no evidence and are conspiratorial. A lot of fake news has been spread about PCR tests since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Use of swab stick during PCR testing is an approved method and routine nasopharyngeal swabs to test for other viruses or for other laboratory results have been collected safely for many years.

Conspiracy theory No.2: The coronavirus and its vaccine have been created to reduce and subdue the world population and Bill Gates has openly stated about it.

In the video address, Archpriest Davit Sulashvili promotes a conspiracy theory that the global power elite plans to reduce the world population and the coronavirus and its vaccine will just promote it. The archpriest claims that Bill Gates makes no secret that he wants to achieve depopulation through vaccines.

The conspiracy theory about Bill Gates allegedly planning to achieve depopulation through vaccines is based on the latter’s virtual conversation as part of the TED Connects series in 2015, where he said that “the greatest risk of global catastrophe doesn’t look like this… not missiles, but microbes.” He also mentioned vaccination, noting that it is important to make vaccines; he, however, said nothing about creating vaccines in a form of microchips.

Below are Myth Detector’s earlier publications regarding this conspiracy theory:

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