An anti-vaccination group has suggested the deadly coronavirus “is just the common cold”, and people have been “fooled” by a “fear campaign on the silly sheep media”.
The statement, in a Facebook video by the Australian Vaccination-risks Network, comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday moved Australia into pandemic mode, declaring the government was now activating its emergency plan.
The viral outbreak that began in China has now infected more than 86,000 people in 60 countries, killing 3000.
As the global impact of the virus escalates, so does the rhetoric from anti-vaxxers on social media.
The Australian Vaccination-risks Network is one group which has moved to downplay the significance of coronavirus, with spokeswoman Meryl Dorey saying the virus “is just the common cold”.
“The cold can kill anyone if they’re sick to begin with and coronavirus is no different,” she said on a Facebook video on Sunday.
She said people have been “fooled” by a “fear campaign on the silly sheep media”.
Prominent anti-vaxxer group People for Informed Consent Australia has claimed to its Facebook followers that “there is nothing to worry about”, also suggesting people awaiting a vaccine are a herd of sheep.
And Australian anti-vaxxer Taylor Winterstein has told her 33,500 Instagram followers that “they’re already socially programming us to accept mass vaccination for when the time comes”.
Australian scientists are among those developing a vaccine for the virus.
University of Queensland researchers said last week they were reaching a point where they could test a candidate vaccine on animals after determining the genetic sequence of coronavirus and using it to produce a protein the same as what is on the surface of the virus.
Australia has recorded 29 infections, including 78-year-old Perth man James Kwan, who died on the weekend after contracting the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
He was the first Australian to die from the disease.
On Monday, the nation’s chief medical officer conceded Australia could no longer keep new coronavirus cases out of the country.
“It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in, given the increasing changes in epidemiology around the country,” Professor Brendan Murphy told reporters.
Last week, a US biotech firm sent an experimental coronavirus vaccine to US government researchers just six weeks after it started working it.
Initial trials of the potential vaccine could begin in April, but the process of testing and approvals would last at least a year.