Goh Meng Seng issued Pofma correction direction over false claims about Omicron variant
SINGAPORE - Opposition party chief Goh Meng Seng has been issued a correction direction under Singapore's fake news law for false claims about the Covid-19 variant Omicron.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said late on Friday night (Dec 3) that it has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue the correction direction to Mr Goh, who is People's Power Party chief.
This means that he is required to publish the correction notice on each Facebook post containing the falsehoods.
Mr Goh had posted a video on Nov 27 on at least two Facebook accounts where he claimed that HIV and the virus that causes Covid-19 can combine in a fully vaccinated patient to become airborne HIV that is vaccine-resistant.
He also claimed that the Omicron variant is most likely the result of combining HIV and the virus that causes Covid-19, which is known as Sars-CoV-2, and that this had happened before June 4 this year.
Mr Goh also said that current vaccines are "totally useless" against the Omicron variant.
MOH countered these false claims and said they were without scientific basis.
"Genetic recombination of viruses is known to occur only in genetically related viruses. The HIV and Sars-CoV-2 viruses are not related, and it is implausible in biological terms that these viruses can undergo genetic recombination," the ministry said.
MOH added that Mr Goh's claim about the possibility of HIV being transmissible by droplets in the air is unfounded.
"Viruses simply do not change drastically enough to take on vastly different properties. HIV is transmitted via bodily fluids (blood, semen or vaginal secretions) and will remain to be so."
The ministry also refuted Mr Goh's claim that the Omicron variant is a combination of HIV and the virus that causes Covid-19.
It added that there is no evidence to suggest that current vaccines are completely useless against the variant.
"Studies are ongoing and there is insufficient data on how the Omicron variant affects vaccine effectiveness," said MOH.
"Most scientists believe that existing vaccines will retain some effectiveness against the Omicron variant, but protection may be less due to the large number of mutations in the variant."
MOH said a police report has been made in relation to the video and that the Government takes a serious view of these falsehoods.
On Monday, Mr Goh was also issued a correction direction together with local author Cheah Kit Sun. He had shared a blog post by Mr Cheah which claimed that Covid-19 vaccines are "the most dangerous ever developed in recent memory".
On April 15, correction directions were issued to the Facebook pages of Mr Goh's party and Goh Meng Seng (Satu Singapura), as well as the Singapore Uncensored website, after unsubstantiated claims about adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines were posted.
The ministry urged members of the public to visit its website for the latest information on Covid-19, rather than speculate or spread misinformation.
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.