Experts say people in Canada are dying over COVID-19 conspiracy theories
COVID-19 conspiracy theories have been spreading across Canada and causing people to snub vital safety measures, according to experts.
A recent study published by Carleton University revealed that almost half of Canadians believed at least one in four COVID-19 conspiracy theories and myths listed in the survey.
According to the findings, a quarter of Canadians (26 per cent) believe the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was engineered in a Chinese lab and released into the general population.
Likewise, 11 per cent of Canadians believe that COVID-19 is not a serious illness but is being spread to cover up harmful health effects associated with exposure to 5G wireless technology.
More than one-fifth (23 per cent) of survey respondents believe the claim promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump that drugs such as hydroxychloroquine are effective in treating patients
And one-sixth of respondents (17 per cent) believe a myth that regularly rinsing your nose with a saline solution can help protect individuals from infection.
Alison Meek, a history professor at Western University, warned that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are creating a "public health crisis," comparing the situation to the spread of misinformation during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.
"Public uncertainty around the scientific process, combined with mounting frustrations with lockdown measures and a struggling economy has created a perfect storm in which conspiracy theories can flourish," she said, speaking to the Canadian Press.
"All of those things are coming together right now to make these conspiracy theories a real public health crisis that's getting more and more difficult to deal with."
Meek encouraged people to think critically about where they are getting their information.
"People are dying because of these conspiracy theories and we've got to stop them," she cautioned. "We've got to somehow figure out how to challenge them."
The stark warning comes after a McGill University study found that people who acquire their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19 and less likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.
"Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming the primary sources of news and misinformation for Canadians and people around the world," said study co-author Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at McGill.
"In the context of a crisis like COVID-19, however, there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions."
“There is growing evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks,” noted fellow co-author Taylor Owen, an associate professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.
“This makes it even more important for policy makers and social media platforms to flatten the curve of misinformation.”
Researchers added that those who consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow important public health advice.
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