COVID-19 UK : Myth Busting

COVID-19 UK : Myth Busting 2504 804 StJohn Deakins

We asked our UK audience some true or false questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

At CitizenMe we’re in the business of transparency. We want to make sure that Citizens are aware of all the facts around the COVID-19 pandemic. As we want to understand how Citizens are thinking and feeling, it made sense to run research on cutting through the myths that are circulating about the right advice to follow regarding the pandemic. We took the official advice given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and asked nine simple true or false questions on whether they believed certain things to be true or not.

The findings are interesting and underline where Citizens are slightly in the dark about information about this crisis. Here’s what we found for each myth listed: 

‘The key symptoms of the COVID-19 virus are fever, tiredness, and dry cough’
This was believed to be true by 93% of our audience in this survey. Ensuring the public knows the key symptoms is important in helping them to decide on whether to reach out for medical advice and support, rather than ignoring. It’s also important to know what isn’t part of the symptoms in order to not overload resources in the health sector. 

‘Alcohol-based hand-rub and soap with water ARE NOT effective ways to kill the virus’
The advice from WHO is that alcohol-based hand-rub and soap ARE effective ways to kill viruses that may be on your hands, so we were looking for our Citizens to answer false here. Most of them did so with 88% saying this information is indeed false. 

‘There is a difference between self-isolating and social-distancing’
Again our Citizens were all in one camp with this piece of information, 96% correctly, believed this to be true. WHO advise that ‘social-distancing’ is ‘maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone coughing or sneezing’. Self isolation is staying, not leaving the home for any other reason apart from exercising. 

‘Cold weather is more effective at killing off the COVID-19 virus’
The WHO advice is currently that there is no reason to believe that cold weather is effective against killing the coronavirus or any other diseases for that matter. 91% of our community correctly said that this was false, in line with the advice given. 

‘Animals, such as dogs and cats, are able to catch and transmit the virus’
We start to see some discrepancies here as the WHO advice is that animals such as cats and dogs can’t catch or transmit the virus. 76% of our audience here correctly thought that this claim was false. This does leave ¼ thinking that their household pets are also under threat from the virus. 

‘It is safe to receive packages from areas where COVID-19 has been reported’
Interestingly, this is where we see our audience the most split in what they believe, with 43% thinking that this is false and that packages from COVID-19 infected countries are a risk. This is in fact true, according to WHO, ‘previous analysis has shown that coronaviruses do not last long on objects such as letters or packages’. Showing that more perhaps needs to be done to clear up whether receiving items in the mail is safe. 

‘Antibiotics ARE NOT an effective treatment for the COVID-19 virus’
This was correctly believed to be true by 88% of our audience. Antibiotics are ineffective against treating all viruses. However, WHO do advise that they may be administered in hospitals because bacterial co-infection is possible.  

‘You should wear a mask at all times when leaving the house’
WHO advice recommends that masks should only be used if a healthy individual is taking care of a person suffering from COVID-19 or if an individual is coughing and sneezing. Masks are effective when used with the correct sanitation methods and disposing of them safely when finished with is also incredibly important in minimising the potential spread. This was correctly believed to be false by 83% of our audience here.  

‘The incubation period is up to a period of 7 days only’
72% of our audience believed this to be false, this, however, means that 28% believe that 7 days is the correct incubation period. This is half what WHO advise to be the incubation period of 14 days. Although the majority have the correct information here, for such a vital piece of information we’d suspect it’s important that this number is higher and ensuring that everyone is aware of the basic advice for this virus pandemic. 

“The CitizenMe COVID-19 community is an open-data research project designed to enable the worlds citizens to share real-time opinions and data about COVID-19 with the institutions fighting the pandemic.”All data gathered is shared anonymously with health services and researchers, governments, journalists, charities – and with the general public.  If you would like a full, anonymised copy of the data, please email us at

StJohn Deakins

StJohn founded CitizenMe with the aim to take on the biggest challenge in the Information Age: helping digital citizens gain control of their digital identity. Personal data has meaning and value to everyone, but there is an absence of digital tools to help people realise its value. With CitizenMe, StJohn aims to fix that. With a depth of experience digitising and mobilising businesses, StJohn aims for positive change in the personal information economy. Oh… and he loves liquorice.

All stories by: StJohn Deakins