A webpage on the official U.K. government website is being cited by conspiracy theorists as proof that the coronavirus pandemic is being overblown.
Written by Public Health England on GOV.UK last month, the page in question states that “as of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.”
COVID-19 was labeled a HCID back in January, but the designation was ultimately changed as more information regarding the disease became available.
The update recently began spreading among conspiracy theorists, BuzzFeed News reports, who believe the statement is proof that the U.K. government’s lockdown of the country is only being done to exert power.
A screenshot of the page has been shared by prominent UK conspiracy theorist David Icke and has circulated in popular Facebook groups such as “Chemtrails Global Skywatch” and “Exposing The New World Order.”
The webpage and claim were even amplified in an article by right-leaning news site the Washington Times. Its article, titled “Before lockdown, Britain quietly downgraded status of virus threat,” has been widely shared across social media.
Despite the claims, the U.K. government’s action is easily explained, as is the case in nearly all conspiracy theories. In fact, all anyone had to do was scroll down the page.
As explained by Professor Brendan Wren of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the HCID designation is for pathogens that are much more deadly.
Although the coronavirus is “highly transmissible between humans,” Wren says, “it isn’t the most deadly of pathogens in terms of the infectious dose required to be lethal.”
“Only 1% of infected humans succumb to the infection,” Wren added. “This compares to, for example, 11% for SARS1 and 50% for Ebola.”
When the U.K. government learned that the HCID label wasn’t a good fit for COVID-19, the change on the site was made. But Wren warns that the disease still poses serious risks given its highly infectious nature. COVID-19 has infected and killed vastly more people than SARS and Ebola did during their most recent outbreaks.
“This slight downgrading doesn’t detract from the seriousness of Covid-19 infection,” Wren said.
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H/T BuzzFeed News