This viral voice message about ambulances shared on WhatsApp is inaccurate
8 April 2020
What was claimed
A voice recording on WhatsApp claims there will be 900 deaths a day at the peak of the new coronavirus outbreak, one third will be children with no underlying health conditions, ambulances won’t be sent to people struggling to breathe, and all ice rinks are now being used as mortuaries.
This is incorrect. South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, where the person in the recording suggests they work, and Public Health England have confirmed the information is inaccurate.
A number of our readers have sent us a voice message that they received on WhatsApp. The recording makes a number of claims about the “peak” of the new coronavirus outbreak, how ambulances will respond and what further lockdown measures the government plans to introduce.
The person making the recording suggests that they work for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and says the information came from Public Health England (PHE).
The Ambulance Trust and PHE have said that the information in the voice recording is not correct and urged people not to share it.
What does the voice recording say?
The claims made in the recording include that:
As of "Thursday of this week" (the exact Thursday in question is a little unclear as we don’t know exactly when the recording was made) “the peak” will be reached and PHE are expecting around 900 deaths a day—one third of which will be children with no underlying health conditions.
It also says that “from Thursday” if anyone calls for an ambulance because they're struggling to breathe (whether they have underlying health conditions or not) they'll be told to manage their symptoms at home rather than receiving an ambulance. The recording adds that these people could end up dying at home.
It also claims every mortuary in the UK is full and we're now "sending bodies to every ice skating rink there is in the UK".
It also says that “as of next week” (again the exact week being referred to is unclear) the government will be announcing that no daily exercise outside will be allowed and that street marshals will be deployed to check people have the correct passes to be allowed outside to get medicines and essential food only.
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has issued a statement in response:
“We are aware of a voice message being shared currently on social media regarding the ambulance response to coronavirus. The alarmist information being shared in the message is not correct. We would urge people to disregard the message and not share it further.
“In line with our ongoing plans during this challenging time, we are continuing to follow national guidelines regarding the ambulance response and thank the public for their ongoing support in following the government’s advice.”
PHE also put out a statement saying they were “aware of a voice message circulating about the ambulance response to coronavirus, as well as restrictions on movement and predicted case numbers, which claims to have come from PHE.”
“This is fake news, and we would urge people to ignore the message and not share it further.”
PHE has issued guidance for ambulance trusts which includes information on wearing protective equipment, how to determine if a patient requires transport to hospital, and how that handover should be carried out. None of the claims made in the recording appear in this guidance.
You’ve probably seen a surge in misleading and unsubstantiated medical advice since the Covid-19 outbreak. If followed, it can put lives at serious risk. We need your help to protect us all from false and harmful information.
We’ve seen people claiming to be health professionals, family members, and even the government – offering dangerous tips like drinking warm water or gargling to prevent infection. Neither of these will work.
The longer claims like these go unchecked, the more they are repeated and believed. It can put people’s health at serious risk, when our services are already under pressure.
Today, you have the opportunity to help save lives. Good information about Covid-19 could be the difference between someone taking the right precautions to protect themselves and their families, or not. Could you help protect us all from false and harmful information today?