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Made in a lab? COVID conspiracy theories run high in the Czech Republic

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Prague, Czech Republic – COVID-19 related conspiracy theories and fake news have been gaining momentum all around the world, and the Czech Republic is no exception, a recent study has found.

40% of Czechs believe in COVID-related conspiracy theories

According to a survey by the STEM agency, around 40% of Czech internet users believe false information and debunked conspiracy theories about the coronavirus.

More than half of respondents say they believe the virus was created artificially in a lab, a theory that has been circulating since the start of the pandemic and the first reported cases in Wuhan, the suspected epicenter. Last month, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was “extremely unlikely” the virus came from a lab leak following a mission by a team of international experts investigating the origins of the virus in China.

While it is now widely believed the novel coronavirus spread from animals to humans, experts are still not sure exactly how it happened, and where.

Furthermore, around two-fifths of Czechs think the pandemic is a pretext used by the government to control and impose restrictions on the population, while approximately 10% of respondents believe the vaccination campaign is a scam to implant microchips.

The STEM poll is based on a representative sample of 1,400 Czech adult internet users.

Czech population’s trust in government plummets

More than a third of the Czech population (38%) declares having already lost faith in the government, whose hazardous management of the second and third waves of the epidemic has been widely criticised. Only 29% trust the government as a reliable source of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, while slightly more than half trust state-owned Czech Radio and Czech Television.

A vast majority of the population continues to put their trust in medical specialists, including general practitioners, immunologists and healthcare workers on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.

The findings should serve as a “warning”, according to STEM researcher Nikola Horejs. The pollster notes that widespread disinformation and fake news haven’t led, for now, the Czech population to massively boycott the government’s restrictions and sanitary guidelines.

From the virus’ origin to magical cures and secret plots to control the population through anti-epidemic measures and vaccines, disinformation and fake news have thrived in the age of COVID-19, leading to a genuine “infodemic” that exacerbated our societies’ vulnerability to false information and conspiracy theories.

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