There is no plan to combat the new coronavirus with helicopters spraying disinfectant

1 April 2020
What was claimed

Five helicopters are going to spray the air with disinfectant overnight in order to combat the new coronavirus

Our verdict

This is a false rumour that has spread all over the world.

A post on Facebook claims that, “tonight from 11:40pm nobody should be on the street. Doors and windows should remain closed as 5 helicopters spray disinfectants into the air to eradicate the coronavirus. Please process this information to all of your contacts”

This is a version of a fake announcement that has been shared all over the world since at least 10 March 2020, when it was first seen in Italy. Fact checkers there could not find any source for the information, nor any sign that spraying with helicopters was part of a local or national plan.

Research by Dr Peter Burger, an academic and fact checker in the Netherlands, shows that the helicopter story quickly spread to many countries, by text message and WhatsApp, and through other forms of social media. Different versions have been debunked by fact checkers all over the world

In a message to Full Fact, Dr Burger said the rumour “reached citizens all over the world in a mere two weeks. From Colombia to Egypt, Kuwait, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands: everywhere the story was adapted to local circumstances, and fitted with fake credentials (i.e. logos of police forces, army, air force, etc.).”

Specific details like the time (11:40pm) and the number of helicopters (five) have often remained the same even as the rumour moved from country to country.

The rumour has now reached the UK. There is no evidence that it is any more true here than in any other country.

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