Coronavirus conspiracy theories being rapidly spread across social media are putting everyone’s health at risk, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd says.
“This is a pandemic. It is putting everyone's health and well-being at risk,” Professor Kidd told reporters on Monday.
“People may not be happy with some aspects they are seeing, but their health is at risk, their parents, their grandparents, we all need to be working together to tackle any of these myths.”
His comments came after a disturbing checklist surfaced online, advising people of what to say if they were confronted by police asking for their details.
One part of the post encouraged people to begin filming before posing a series of questions to the police officer like, “have I disturbed the peace?”.
“Do not answer any questions - always respond with a question from the list,” the guide says, according to News.com.au.
“Say nothing other than what is printed here in bold. Repeat each question until it is answered.”
Other questions include: Have I committed a crime? Am I under arrest? Did you take an oath to uphold the Law? Do you agree I am a living man/woman?
Bizarrely, the script then involves asking one officer to arrest another, before serving them with a schedule of fees including $50,000 for “nonconsensual interactions”.
Eve Black, also known as Eve Limberiou, a self-proclaimed COVID-19 conspiracy theorist who refers to the pandemic as a “SCAMdemic”, recorded herself passing through a Melbourne checkpoint after managing to avoid questions by police due to her excessive truculence.
Several questions she asks officers in her video are similar to the questions on the ‘script’.
A number of videos have also emerged recently of confrontations between Victorians and police, with one woman infamously dubbed “Karen” becoming involved in a heated dispute inside a Bunnings Warehouse.
‘Don’t listen to myths on social media’
The hostile behaviour has drawn criticism from the wider community as well as health experts and the prime minister.
“You need to listen to the messages which are coming from the government,” Professor Kidd said on Monday.
“The single source of advice or truth is health.gov.au. Please go to that website, use this as your source of credible information, don't listen to myths on social media.”
Residents of a Canberra suburb have also been delivered a disturbing fraudulent letter instructing them to not get tested for coronavirus due to the “imminent danger” of contracting the deadly disease.
Existing and new conspiracy theories have gained increasing attention during the coronavirus, ranging from the longstanding anti-vaccination movement to blaming Bill Gates for being behind the novel coronavirus.
Ana Stojanov works in the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand where she has spent years researching the rise of conspiracy theories. As with any complex phenomena, the reasons people are drawn to them can vary widely, she told Yahoo News Australia recently.
“If the content of the conspiracy belief confirms people's worldview they'll be especially drawn to it. The positive feeling arising from ‘being in the know’ and possessing unique knowledge about some event may likewise be satisfying,” she said.
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