Debunking Pastor Chris’ Conspiracies on COVID-19, Vaccines

At his church’s recent communion service, popular Tele-evangelist Pastor Chris Oyakhilome made some claims about the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination exercise that is ongoing in some countries in Africa.

The Tele-evangelist has previously made several conspiracies and controversial comments on COVID-19 since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year.

In this report, Fact-Check Ghana looks at some of the hoaxes made by Pastor Chris at his church’s recent event and provides responses from credible health and scientific sources.

Claim 1: “I did an enormous amount of research on the use of masks. Those who are telling you to wear masks, have they done any research? Do they have scientific proof that it works? It doesn’t and they know.”

Verdict: Completely False

Explanation: There is a lot of scientific evidence that supports the efficacy and efficiency of masks in preventing the spread of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A study published by several researchers from US medical schools showed that nose masks have proven to be an efficient tool for reducing the infectious rate of COVID-19.

The study said available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of non-medical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures, “could successfully reduce effective-R0 (rate of transmissibility) to below 1.0, thereby stopping community spread”.

Aside from that, a study conducted into COVID-19 associated mortality rate in all 198 countries in June 2020 found that countries that have imposed orders for compulsory wearing of nose masks had the least death rates as compared to others without any.

Also, in demonstrating the efficacy of the face masks, The New England Journal of Medicine in May 2020 carried out an exercise to “Visualize Speech-Generated Oral Fluid Droplets with Laser Light Scattering”.

The study revealed that when a person spoke through the open end of a box without a mask, droplets gathered during speech traversed approximately 50 to 75 mm. The number of droplets and the distance they could travel were significantly reduced when the person spoke with a nose mask on.

Assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, Eleanor Murray said in the event of a sneeze, a mask could serve as an effective barrier to keep potentially infectious droplets or aerosols from spraying into the air.

In an individual testimony, it is reported that a man who had had a dry cough and flew from China to Toronto, Canada tested positive on arrival but because he wore a mask, all 25 passengers closer to him on the plane tested negative.

From the preponderance of evidence adduced above, the claim by Pastor Chris is false.

Claim 2: “The so-called isolation centers that have been built and set aside for so-called sick people are now being used as a detention center by certain governments and countries. First, I produced one from Canada and another from the state of New York which they are hoping to pass into law which abuses people’s rights”

Verdict: Misleading

Explanation: The government of Canada has been paying for isolation centers for people returning to Canada, in hotels and other lodging sites to facilitate their 14-day quarantine period following the passage of a law that took effect on February 8, 2021.

In an interview granted the Toronto.com about the detention centers, the director of strategy and preventive health at Toronto Public Health (TPH), Gayle Bursey, said the Toronto Public Health uses contact management to identify individuals who are eligible to stay at the centre, which is located in an unoccupied hotel in the city.

“The decision to accept a stay at the centre is entirely voluntary,” Bursey added.

Bursey noted that “People can also qualify to stay if they are at significant risk of COVID-19 infection from someone living in their home.”

In the City of New York, a bill for the amendment of the Public Health Law is underway to ensure the removal of cases, contacts, and carriers of communicable diseases who are potentially dangerous to public health.

The bill which is awaiting second reading will empower the governor under emergency circumstances to order the removal and/or detention of such a person or of a group of such persons by issuing a single order, identifying such persons either by name or by a reasonably specific description of the individuals or group being detained.

Section 4 clause C of the bill notes that a person “A person who is detained pursuant to subdivision two of this section as a contact of a confirmed case or a carrier shall not continue to be detained after the department determines that the person is not infected with the disease or that such contact no longer presents a potential danger to the health of others”.

Following from the above, though these orders have been put in place, it is misleading to claim they abuse the rights of others without justification.

Claim 3: “And you ask why did so many people die. And I have said that the reason many people died was because they were left to die of other sicknesses not COVID-19. Most of the people who were said to have died of other sicknesses and not COVID-19 itself. And this is factual they have rarely been able to find any individual who died of COVID-19 only and has nothing else wrong with him”

Verdict: Misleading

Explanation: Scientists say persons with underlying conditions are likely to die from the COVID-19 than those with none.

However, that has not been the case for everyone who has had their lives cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic as young people with no underlying condition have passed, sadly.

Scientists say one possible theory called a “cytokine storm” where a healthy patient is essentially killed by their own, overreactive immune system is a contributing reason.

Professor Gupta in an interview with Huffingtonpost.co.uk. said “For some reason, these viruses are setting up uncontrolled inflammation”

He added: “That may be one of the reasons why young people sometimes become very sick and die – because they have very strong inflammatory responses to the virus”

In April 2020, England’s NHS said the number of people dying at an increasing rate from COVID-19 is on a meteoric rise.

In England and Wales, about four thousand, four hundred and seventy-six ( 4,476) people have lost their lives without underlying conditions in a notice issued on November 27, 2020.

In a story told by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, it said some young people have died from COVID-19, painfully.

Professor Gupta said some younger healthier people, thinking they are not vulnerable to this disease, have been less diligent about practicing physical distancing, and as a result, have been exposed to much larger viral loads from the environment.

Claim 4: “Now so much money has been borrowed by African Countries for the purchase of vaccines. We are talking about money that they don’t really have. So, they have to borrow this money. For some of them, they were forced to borrow the money. Some were threatened to get this money. Truth of the matter is you’ll never be able to pay back. Why? Because they will continue to manipulate your currency and make it difficult for you to come out of debt. Ask yourself how many African Nations have actually come out of debt they borrowed money from the IMF.”

Verdict: Misleading

Explanation: While it is true that many African countries are indebted to the IMF for decades, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been at the forefront of supporting countries in this pandemic with emergency funding.

The Fund has extended Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) worth $250 billion to 85 countries, including Ghana.

In an email correspondent with Fact-Check Ghana on March 17, 2021, Lucie Mboto Fouda of the IMF Press Office said there was no compulsory facility for the purchase of vaccines by countries as being peddled by Pastor Chris.

“The Fund does not have any facility for financing the purchase of the vaccine. In the context of Fund arrangements and emergency assistance, the Fund could provide financing for the budget, which in turn could spend on health items such as vaccines. But the financing from the Fund would not be earmarked for vaccines specifically or any other spending item”

The Fund added that “while the purchase of vaccines via the budget may give rise to a financing need that the Fund can help address, the purchase of vaccines is still a sovereign choice.”

This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union.

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