Facebook user, Gocha Kartveli, published a post about the novel coronavirus where he claims to be quoting Ramaz Gagnidze, a doctor and a businessman. The post refers to the so-called “Corona Scam” which contains a number of fallacious claims:

• The coronavirus is less lethal as compared to other flu viruses.

• There are no asymptomatic patients.

• The rise in Georgia’s coronavirus cases is suspiciously related to the upcoming elections.

Claim: The coronavirus is less lethal as compared to other flu viruses.

Verdict: FAKE NEWS

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, people started to erroneously equate it with a seasonal flu. The fake news item, saying that the flu claims more lives as compared to the coronavirus, was also promoted.

Both the flu and the coronavirus cause respiratory diseases and their symptoms are similar. These two viruses are spread via droplets and, therefore, health measures are identical – hand hygiene, wearing face masks and social distancing.

However, in spite of their symptoms being similar, we should not equate them with each other since they are two different viruses. COVID-19 is the infection caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Currently, it is more dangerous as compared to other flu viruses for the reasons given below:

• COVID-19 is a new infection meaning that it is still being studied and there are no approved vaccines against the virus.

• COVID-19 is more infectious than flu viruses. This strain of the coronavirus infects 2-2.5 persons whilst the flu infects 1.3. Therefore, COVID-19 is spread more rapidly.

• In accordance with the available data, the COVID-19 mortality rate is much higher as compared to a seasonal flu. COVID-19 deaths constitute 1% of the total cases whilst seasonal the flu mortality rate is nearly 0.1%. However, a comparison of these two items of data is not appropriate since there are no statistical data about deaths for certain flu viruses and so we can only make estimates. In addition, since the coronavirus pandemic is in its active phase, it is hard to determine the precise COVID-19 mortality rate. This will only be possible after the pandemic is over.

Of note is that COVID-19 may be followed with more dangerous health complications as compared to flu. In most cases, the coronavirus goes mildly, although in certain cases it is accompanied with severe complications which can have a fatal outcome. In mild, severe and critical cases, there is a big chance to develop an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) when fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs. The fluid keeps the lungs from filling with air and, consequently, less oxygen reaches the bloodstream. In ARDS, oxygen therapy and artificial respiration are needed.

According to John Hopkins University’s data, the precise mortality rate for COVID-19 is not available. However, supposedly it is significantly higher as compared to most of the flu strains, perhaps ten times or even more.

Claim the cat the novel coronavirus is less lethal does not correspond to the truth. However, those aforementioned manipulative claims were also ample in other countries. See the articles of the other fact-checking organisations (link 1 and link 2).

The BBC reports that Facebook removed US President Donald Trump’s post where he claimed that COVID-19 is less lethal than the flu.

Claim: There are no asymptomatic patients.

Verdict: FAKE NEWS

The novel coronavirus can be asymptomatic. A person who recovers without showing symptoms characteristic of a COVID-19 infection is considered as asymptomatic.

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) employs categories of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases. In particular, a pre-symptomatic case of COVID-19 is an individual infected with SARS-CoV-2 who has not exhibited symptoms at the time of testing but who later exhibits symptoms during the course of the infection. An asymptomatic case is an individual infected with SARS-CoV-2 who does not exhibit symptoms during the course of the infection.

According to the report of Georgia’s National Centre for Disease Control, 36.2% of the patients were asymptomatic on the PCR testing day. However, symptoms may be exhibited later in the course of the disease.

Manipulation vis-à-vis Rising Cases of COVID-19 in September

A Facebook post contains a conspirological assumption that the rising cases of COVID-19 are in the interests of the Government of Georgia and are related to the upcoming elections.

Since the beginning of September, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has skyrocketed in Georgia. As of 1 September 2020, there were 1,510 confirmed COVID-19 cases whilst as of 7 October 2020, the number of confirmed cases reached 9,753. It is safe to say that the deterioration of the epidemiological situation was expected. There are numerous reasons to explain this, including lifting restrictions, ignoring recommendations and the summer tourist season.

The vast majority of COVID-19 cases confirmed since 1 September 2020 are in Ajara. Since people were unable to leave the country for tourist trips this summer, the focus shifted to domestic tourism. The main destination here was Ajara. Plenty of events were held in Ajara throughout this summer and recommendations were largely not observed at those events. FactCheck’s article lists those facilities which the government fined or/and shut down for their failure to comply with the recommendations.

In addition, Georgia’s chief epidemiologists started to talk about the post-summer looming second wave as early as during the first wave of the pandemic in spring. Therefore, there is nothing unclear or inexplicable in the second wave and the surge of new cases. It is also not surprising that the number of confirmed cases is higher as compared to the first wave. This can be explained precisely by the lack of restrictions. The government measures in March 2020 led to an almost full lockdown which significantly impeded the spread of the virus whilst lifting the restrictions in summer, together with the other aforementioned reasons, quite logically caused a sharp spike in confirmed cases.

Of further note is that disinformation and conspirological assumptions about the coronavirus help its spread since some people refuse to follow relevant preventive measures.

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