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    'Absolutely insane': Anti-vaxxers promote coronavirus conspiracies

    COVID-19-testing-clinic.png
    Nursing staff from St Vincent’s Hospital see local residents and backpackers at a COVID-19 testing clinic in the Bondi Pavilion.
    News Desk: Anti-vaxxers have been targeting Sydneysiders by dropping leaflets in letterboxes that claim the novel coronavirus is a hoax and by spreading conspiracy theories online.

    Some residents of Ryde received a 12-page printed document in their letterboxes calling the pandemic the "plannedemic" and advising people not to follow advice to get a seasonal flu shot and challenge the government over physical distancing rules.

    The document, seen by the Herald, said COVID-19 was just a mild seasonal cold and was being exaggerated as part of a conspiracy to remove social freedoms and introduce forced vaccinations.

    The document alleges that a cast of villains, including Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Lucy Turnbull, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and Big Pharma, had a secret agenda that would culminate in hiding identifying nanoparticles in the vaccine to exert global domination.

    Conspiracy theories are also being propagated online, varying from claims that the virus is mild to it being manufactured or caused by 5G mobile networks.

    Several people have received similar emails or missives in their Facebook feeds.

    "I’m a part-time yoga teacher, and as a result I have at least 100 Facebook friends from the yoga scene," one woman from the northern beaches said.

    "At least 25 per cent of them suddenly believe that 5G is related to COVID-19 and that Bill Gates is trying to depopulate the world and put microchips in us all using vaccines."

    NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it was "absolutely insane" for people to advocate not getting a flu shot.

    "If your immune system drops because you catch the flu, then you are much more likely to be exposed to other viruses including COVID-19," he said.

    "My message for the anti-vaxxers and for others is: please, just go away and let people get on with their lives safely and take their flu shots."

    Professor Ben Cowie, an infectious diseases specialist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at Melbourne University, said the idea that the pandemic was a hoax was absurd.

    "I've had patients with COVID-19 ... and I've got colleagues working in countries where the health system is under extraordinary pressure from COVID-19," Professor Cowie said.

    "The very notion that this is in some way a hoax or conspiracy would mean that every healthcare worker in every country is party to a conspiracy for some reason that defies my understanding. So, no, there is absolutely no truth whatsoever to any sense that this is some sort of hoax or conspiracy."

    Professor Cowie said he had already had his flu shot for 2020. While there was less flu about this year so far because of social distancing, it would be a particularly bad time to get the flu.

    A flu outbreak would stretch the resources of the health system because more people would need to be tested for COVID-19 given the similarity of symptoms, while some cases would be severe and require hospital care.

    "This is one of the most important years for someone who's doubting flu vaccine to go ahead and get it," he said.”

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