The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic is certainly cause for concern. Proper communication and optimal decision-making is an ongoing challenge, as data evolve. The challenge is complex, especially caused by exaggerated information which can lead to inappropriate actions. It is important to differentiate promptly the true epidemic from an epidemic of false claims and potentially harmful actions.
To counteract fake news and to enable quick but evidence-based decisions within the Belgian Red Cross (BRC), CEBaP searches for relevant COVID-19 literature on a daily basis and provides direct feedback to the Board of Directors of the BRC. Examples of relevant COVID-19 topics for the BRC include (mental health) first aid treatment and hygienic preventive measures for COVID-19; the impact of COVID-19 on our International programs enrolled in different African countries and our preventive relief actions at mass gatherings; blood supply and transfusion during the COVID-19 crisis; and diagnostic test screening procedures for COVID-19.
In close collaboration with the BRC Communications Department, CEBaP already performed a fact-check on the following conclusions stated in the scientific literature and (social) media:
Are people with blood type A more susceptible to COVID-19?
Are babies and young children more likely to have severe COVID-19 symptoms compared to older children or adults?
Can high temperature and high humidity reduce the transmission of COVID-19?
After a critical methodological appraisal of the observational studies of (very-)low quality that were used to formulate these statements, we concluded that these statements are not correct and misleading information. Our fact-check conclusions are currently shared by several national media channels including the websites of Gezondheid & Wetenschap and the VRT (Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie).