Debunking the Covid deniers who enter hospitals

Article By: Christopher Giles

A man making false and misleading statements about Covid-19 tried to remove a sick coronavirus patient from East Surrey Hospital, and is wanted by police.

A man making false and misleading statements about Covid-19 tried to remove a sick coronavirus patient from East Surrey Hospital, and is wanted by police.

The man filmed himself arguing with doctors in the ward, demanding to be allowed to take the patient home. Doctors at the hospital are seen in the video warning against such an action - stating that the patient would die if he left their care.

It follows a trend of people filming supposedly "empty hospitals" and then posting them online and encouraging others to do the same, spread on social media platforms.

In a statement, Michael Wilson, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "Any suggestion that Covid-19 doesn't exist or isn't serious is not only extremely disrespectful to the NHS staff caring for patients affected by the virus, but it also puts the lives of others at risk."

The video has been shared thousands of times on social media. The man behind the camera makes a number of discredited claims - albeit ones that are very popular in Covid-19 conspiracy communities online.

What's wrong with his statements?

Vitamins and zinc can't cure Covid-19
The doctor in the video describes the patient's condition and treatment, and notes that he's on a steroid called dexamethasone and antibiotics "to treat concurrent bacterial infections".

The man filming insists the patient should be given vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc instead.

"None of those are proven treatments for coronavirus," the doctor replies.

Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory drug and trials have shown it can be effective in treating Covid-19.

While vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc are essential for the body and can support the immune system, they won't cure the disease.

The government does not think Covid-19 is harmless
The man behind the camera also claims that Covid-19 was "declassified on 19 March 2020 as no longer highly contagious infectious disease".

He is probably referring to a technical classification - high consequence infectious diseases (HCIDs). Covid initially had this classification in the UK but now does not.

This fact is used in online forums as "proof" that Covid-19 is not a real disease or that it is essentially harmless.

In reality, it means nothing of the sort. Covid is dangerous but HCIDs are very deadly. The designation refers to the fatality rate, and the category includes Ebola and Sars, which have case-fatality rates of about 50% and 15% respectively.

But just because Covid-19 does not have a fatality rate comparable to Ebola and Sars, it doesn't mean it's not a significant threat.

The coronavirus is real - and has been identified
The man filming also questions if Covid-19 has "been proven to exist?"

Claims that the virus had not been "identified" or "isolated" were very popular online in early 2020, and they linger on today. They are often used to imply there is some sort of vague cover-up or "hoax".

However, such claims are not true. The coronavirus genome was sequenced in early January 2020 - more than a year ago.

Wanted by police
The BBC attempted to contact Toby Hayden-Leigh, the man thought to have filmed the video.

In a statement, Surrey Police said they were looking for him in connection with a public nuisance offence.

East Surrey Detective Chief Inspector Kimball Edey said: "We would like to speak to Hayden-Leigh in connection with this incident, and the escalating abusive and threatening comments being made towards hospital staff on social media. These comments are extremely concerning, and are obviously causing considerable distress for those who are being targeted.

"He came into close proximity with a patient who remains seriously ill with Covid and may well have contracted the virus himself."


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