Good news coronavirus list needs context

30th Mar 2020

Claim

China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.

Conclusion

This is correct. The last hospitals closed at the start of March 2020.

 

Doctors in India have been successful in treating coronavirus with a combination of drugs (Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine) and are going to suggest the same medicine globally.

 

India’s ministry of health has advised that the anti-HIV drugs, Lopinavir and Retonovir, are used in some groups of Covid-19 patients. But it is unclear how successful this treatment has been. The other two drugs from the claim are not mentioned in their guidance.

 

Researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

 

Researchers in the Netherlands have released research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, on an antibody against the new coronavirus.

 

A 103 year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from Covid-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China

 

This has been widely reported in the media.

 

Apple has reopened all 42 China stores.

 

Correct. On 13 March 2020, Apple announced that it had reopened all 42 stores in mainland China after a closure of almost six weeks.

 

Cleveland Clinic developed a Covid-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

 

This is incorrect. The clinic announced that it is able to speed up Covid-19 testing after developing the ability to test on-site, but it had not developed a new test.

 

The number of new cases in South Korea is declining.

 

This was correct when the viral post began to appear. Reported new cases declined from their peak in late February, and have been roughly level since mid-March

 

Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

 

Whilst it is true that an older population has contributed to a high number of deaths in Italy, it may not be the sole reason.

 

Scientists in Israel are likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

 

Scientists in Israel and elsewhere are working on developing a vaccination to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but it won’t be ready for the public for over a year.

 

Three Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered and are able to return to everyday life.

 

Correct. On 13 March 2020, Montgomery County, Maryland confirmed that three residents who previously had the virus no longer tested positive.

 

A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

 

At least one group of Canadian scientists has recently announced some progress in understanding Covid-19.

 

A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

 

This is correct. The company, Arcturus Therapeutics, announced on 4 March 2020 that it would be working on a vaccine with DukeNUS Medical School in Singapore.

 

Tulsa County's first positive Covid-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

 

Correct, this patient has recovered according to official Tulsa County sources. Two negative tests is one of three official indicators of recovery among people with Covid-19 (who showed symptoms).

 

All seven patients who were getting treated for Covid-19 at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

 

There is a news story reporting that seven patients in this hospital in New Delhi had recovered. However, these were not the only Covid-19 patients in the city.

 

Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.

 

This is being used as a treatment in some countries, but clinical trials have not yet proved that this is effective.

Claim 1 of 15

We’ve been asked to check a list of good news stories about the coronavirus pandemic that has been widely shared on social media. Many of the claims are true, but they often need some context.

“China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.”

Correct. On 10 March 2020, the last two of 16 makeshift hospitals that had been set up in Wuhan to combat the new coronavirus outbreak were closed, according to local news sources and international media. On 18 March 2020, no new Covid-19 cases were reported in the province of Hubei (of which Wuhan is the capital) for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak. Very few cases have been officially reported in Hubei since this date and travel restrictions have begun to be relaxed in the area.

“Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus using combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.”

India’s ministry of health has recommended using some of these drugs, but it is not clear how successful they have been so far. 

Guidance for the clinical management of Covid-19 mentions using the anti-HIV drugs Lopinavir and Retonovir to treat certain patients who are in high-risk groups.

However, the guidance also says there is “no current evidence” to recommend any “specific treatment” for patients with Covid-19 and there is no adequate evidence to recommend any specific anti-virals. It says the use of Lopinavir and Ritonavir is associated with “significant adverse events which many a times leads to discontinuation of therapy” and the drugs should only be used with the “proper informed expressed consent on a case to case basis for severe cases”. There is no mention of Oseltamivir (sold as ‘Tamiflu’ to treat influenza) or Chlorphenamine (an antihistamine).

It is unclear how successful this treatment has been. It has been reported that Indian doctors cured Italian patients with this treatment, but this is not confirmed by official sources. 

The World Health Organisation is including Lopinavir and Ritonavir in trials looking for ways to treat Covid-19.

“Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus”

This is true. Researchers from several institutes, including the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, have published a paper (which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed) that reports on a neutralising antibody for the new coronavirus. Neutralising antibodies are produced by the immune system to protect against viral infection, and are what vaccines aim to induce in the human body. 

“A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from Covid-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.”

It has been widely reported that a 103 year-old grandmother in Wuhan, China, made a full recovery from Covid-19 after six days. Zhang Guangfen’s doctor, Dr Zeng Yulan, reportedly told the media that she had no underlying health conditions apart from mild bronchitis.

The story was initially reported by Chutian Metropolis Daily, which published a video of an elderly patient in a hospital bed surrounded by people posing in full-body protective suits.

“Apple reopens all 42 china stores.”

Correct. On 13 March 2020, Apple announced that “as of today, all of our stores in Greater China have reopened” after closing all 42 stores on 1 February. The company added that stores outside China were to be closed until 27 March (Apple's website now says that these closures are "until further notice").

“Cleveland Clinic developed a Covid-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.”

This is not true. The hospital in Ohio has developed a faster way of doing the test that already exists, on its own hospital site. In a press briefing on 12 March, the Cleveland Clinic’s CEO and president told reporters: “Cleveland Clinic has not developed a new test for coronavirus.”

However, he did say the clinic has “developed the ability” to test for Covid-19 on site, which would speed up the results from days to hours. 

“Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.”

This was correct when the post first appeared on social media, and at the time of writing. Reported new cases of Covid-19 in South Korea have declined since their peak in late February, and been roughly level since mid-March. 

“Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.” 

This claim is partially correct.

Italy does have the oldest population in Europe according to data published by the UN. And at the time of writing (27 March), Italy had officially reported 8,215 Covid-19 deaths, the highest of any country recorded

Older adults and those with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of getting very ill as a result of Covid-19. One research paper discusses that as well as Italy’s demographics, cultural factors likely contributed to viral spread in Italy, including family members of different generations living close together and having frequent contact with one another. 

A great deal remains unknown about why different countries have been affected in different ways. We also don’t know yet how the pandemic will develop in other places. 

“Scientists in Israel likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.”

According to newspaper reports, scientists at the Institute for Biological Research in Israel are working on developing a vaccine for the new coronavirus. Institutes and pharmaceutical companies in other countries are working on similar projects, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

“Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.”

This is true. On 13 March 2020, Montgomery County (a local government in the US state of Maryland) confirmed that three residents who previously had the virus no longer tested positive. 

“A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.”

It is difficult to know exactly which research this statement has in mind. However, there is certainly at least one group of Canadian scientists, from Sunnybrook Research Institute, McMaster University and the University of Toronto, who have recently announced some progress in understanding Covid-19.

“A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.”

This is true. The company, called Arcturus Therapeutics, announced on 4 March 2020 that it would be working on a vaccine with DukeNUS Medical School in Singapore. This is also on the WHO’s list of vaccines being worked on.

“Tulsa County's first positive Covid-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.”

This is true. The first resident of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, to test positive for the new coronavirus was a man in his 50s, who had returned from Italy. The Tulsa County website lists him as “recovered”.

In a Facebook post referring to the patient, Tulsa Health Department said that they “had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery”. Under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, two negative tests is one of the criteria to determine if people with Covid-19 who had symptoms but weren’t hospitalised can stop isolating, alongside resolution of fever without medication and improvement in respiratory symptoms. 

“All 7 patients who were getting treated for [Covid-19] at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi are recovered”

One possible origin of this claim is a story in The Hindu on 14 March, which said that seven Covid-19 patients at the hospital in New Delhi had recovered. These seven were not the only Covid-19 patients in Safdarjung Hospital, however. The vast majority of Covid-19 patients experience a mild illness and do recover.

“Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.”

At the time of writing, this has not yet been proven in clinical trials, but the approach has been approved for occasional use in China and elsewhere