FactCheck Social Media

False claims about COVID tests and famous New Zealand visitors

2020-08-07 17:26:18

The Statement

A YouTube video posted on Facebook titled, “Strange things are happening in New Zealand”, claims the RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) test used to detect COVID-19 is not an appropriate testing method.

The video by Dr Rashid A Buttar also claims that tech entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Larry Page visited NZ recently and that COVID-19 is no different to the common cold.

The July 29 post to a Facebook group called Spiritual Renaissance NZ Unleashed, has gathered more than 50 reactions and 25 shares and links to Dr Buttar’s YouTube video which has been viewed more than 354,000 times.

A Facebook post
 A video post claims RT-PCR tests used to detect COVID-19 aren’t an appropriate testing method. 

The Analysis

The post’s video claims the RT-PCR test is not viable for detecting viruses and that the inventor who developed the test in the 1980s argued the same. The claim about the test’s efficacy goes against published advice from the US government agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UK’s NHS. The purported quote used in the video is in fact not from the inventor of the PCR test.

The video also repeats previously debunked claims that Microsoft founder Bill Gates visited New Zealand recently and that COVID-19 is no different to the common cold.

Dr Rashid A Buttar is described on his website as the medical director of The Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Cornelius, North Carolina. The site claims the centre’s treatments – specialising in detoxification and enhancing the immune system – “are so effective that even the North Carolina Medical Board is trying to suppress the truth”.

Near the five minute mark of the video, Dr Buttar claims there is an “exponentially increasing rate of diagnostics showing positive for COVID-19 despite the real-time PCR testing … not being an appropriate testing methodology that would actually indicate anything that was viable”. He cites PCR inventor Dr Kary Mullis and says the Nobel Prize winner “actually said you cannot use the RT- PCR testing for diagnosing a viral or a bacterial infection or any other type of infectious type of pathology”.

The quote on the PCR test used by Dr Buttar comes from a 1996 magazine article about HIV/AIDS and is not from Dr Mullis. The quote, which has previously been fact checked, wasn’t made by Dr Mullis and is in fact an extract from the article, which was written by New York writer John Lauritsen. In the article Lauritsen uses a quote from Dr Mullis – “Quantitative PCR is an oxymoron” – but then continues with his own writing to say: “PCR is intended to identify substances qualitatively, but by its very nature is unsuited for estimating numbers”.

The false attribution of the quote to Mullis has previously been addressed  here, here and here.

A CDC fact sheet on PCR states the test is designed to detect the virus that causes COVID-19. In the UK, the NHS says its preferred screening/testing is molecular diagnosis of COVID-19 using real-time PCR.

Dr Buttar also claims that Mr Gates, who he says is close friends with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was in NZ “as of a few weeks ago”. He adds: “Apparently so is Larry Page from Google.” AAP FactCheck has previously debunked claims that Mr Gates visited NZ in 2020 with a statement from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ms Ardern gave an address at the Gates Foundation’s Goal Keepers Summit in New York in September 2019. There is no evidence that Mr Page visited NZ recently.

Near the end of the video, Dr Buttar says COVID-19 is no different to the common cold. WHO lists common symptoms of COVID-19 as fever, dry cough, and tiredness but can also  “range from no symptoms… to severe pneumonia or death”. The CDC lists symptoms of the common cold to include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and body aches. The CDC also states on its website that the “virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.” AAP FactCheck has previously debunked this claim. 

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 A video posted on Facebook claims Microsoft founder Bill Gates visited New Zealand recently. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claims in the Facebook post to be false. Dr Rashid Buttar’s claims about the value of PCR testing are not supported by advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US or the NHS in the UK. The quote on the PCR test used by Dr Buttar is not from Dr Kary Mullis and is taken out of context.

There is no evidence that Bill Gates or Larry Page visited New Zealand in recent months.

The CDC states the virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the same as coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

False – The primary claims of the video’s content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/