The French government has warned its citizens they cannot use cocaine to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
“No, cocaine does not protect against COVID-19,” the official advice from France’s Ministry of Solidarity and Health said. “It’s an addictive drug that causes serious adverse and harmful effects.”
The warning was posted to Twitter on Sunday, with a link to the coronavirus information page on the government’s website.
It is one of a number of official posts by the French health ministry aimed at tackling disinformation.
Similar guidance issued by the department in recent days includes a warning that spraying alcohol or chlorine on your skin will not kill viruses that have already entered your body.
Other posts seek to reassure citizens the coronavirus cannot be transmitted via mosquito bites, and that disinfectant hand sanitisers do not cause cancer.
The warnings over cocaine appear to be in response to a series of viral memes, which show doctored news headlines suggesting the class A drug “kills coronavirus”.
It is one of a number of myths and conspiracy theories that have emerged since the start of the outbreak, many of which involve the origins of the coronavirus.
Several such popular — but scientifically debunked — theories insist the virus originated in a level 4 research laboratory in Wuhan, either escaping by accident or being developed as a bioweapon.
Experts suggest that epidemics and disasters are classic breeding grounds for such conspiracies.
“They are so easy to spread because these events are existential. They kill,” Brian Houston, a disaster-related mental health and communication researcher, told Wired.
“The literature says that the things that tend to scare us the most are risks we can’t observe, and risks that are new and not understandable.”
However, some citizens in France — which has confirmed more than 1,400 cases — appeared unperturbed as they risked contagion to participate in a world-record attempt.
While the French government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people on Sunday, the health ministry may also wish to update their official advice on Smurf gatherings.
Nearly 3,550 people donned blue garments, face paint and white headwear in the Brittany commune of Landerneau on Saturday as they seized the Guinness World Record for the largest ever gathering of Smurfs.
“We figured we wouldn’t worry and that as French people we wouldn’t give up on our attempt to break the record, and now we’re champions of the world,” one attendee told AFP.
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