CAPE TOWN – Around the world, politicians and conspiracy theorists spread dangerous disinformation and misinformation about Covid-19, sowing seeds of doubts about its severity and denying the very existence of the pandemic.
As the virus spreads across the globe, bringing with it the threat of disease and economic collapse, so has denialism. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a second contagion; false information.
While other countries have been applauded on how they handled the pandemic, some politicians have been criticized for a lack of leadership during the coronavirus crisis.
Here are some of most powerful global leaders who are coronavirus denialists:
- U.S President Donald Trump, has made some controversial statements around the pandemic. At a rally in North Charleston on 28 February, Trump said that Covid-19 was a “new hoax” by Democrats after they had failed to impeach him. Health experts have accused Trump of downplaying the spread and impact of coronavirus. Last month researchers at Cornell University published a study which revealed that Trump was the ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation.
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro believes the coronavirus is just “a little flu.” He has scoffed at ideas such as lockdowns and physical distancing. “No one will hinder my right to come and go,” he proclaimed over Easter weekend as he defied his own government’s stay-at-home recommendation and interacted with members of the public on the streets of Brasilia.
- Tanzanian President John Magufuli urged his people to keep going to their churches and mosques because coronavirus is the devil and it cannot survive in the body of Jesus. In June President Magufuli declared that Tanzania was “coronavirus-free” thanks to prayers by citizens. The country’s ministry of Health also stopped releasing Covid-19 updates citing fake Covid-19 test kits on the market and fear mongering.
- Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko believes Vodka and playing hockey can fend off the virus. President Lukashenko was quoted saying “No one will die of coronavirus in our country. I publicly declare this.” About 901 people have died from the virus and 83 998 have tested positive.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the beginning of the pandemic, downplayed the threat of the virus and even suggested social distancing recommendations should be ignored. “If you’re able and have the means to do so, continue taking your family out to eat. That strengthens the economy,” he said.
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