Video: Stephen Birch released on warning after posting fake news about COVID-19 testing kits

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In a Facebook video, the man calls on South Africans to refuse ‘contaminated’ Covid-19 testing and even blames the outbreak on 5G.

The man who posted a fake video relating to Covid-19, claiming testing kits are possibly contaminated, was arrested on Monday before being released on a warning on Tuesday.

Stephen Donald Birch appeared at the Cape Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning charged with a breach of the Disaster Management Regulations. He was released on a warning and will return to court on 14 July.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the 55-year-old appeared following his arrest on Monday by police from Parow police station in Cape Town.

“The arrest relates to a video disseminated through various social media platforms purporting contamination of Covid-19 test kits,” Peters said.

In the Facebook video, which has been widely distributed on social media, Birch calls on South Africans to refuse Covid-19 testing.

With a cotton bud stuck up his nose, he claims he is giving South Africans “the most important message you will ever hear in your entire life”.

He then claims that the South African government will send 10,000 workers door to door, with the police, to test for Covid-19.

“Do not under any circumstances allow them to test you. There’s a possibility that the swabs are contaminated with Covid-19.”

Birch then claims that, globally, the swabs are used to “spread the virus”, without providing any evidence to support his claim.

He cites a single incident of one production firm, Luxembourg-based manufacturer Eurofins, which told UK labs on Monday that deliveries of Covid-19 kits would be delayed as core parts had been contaminated with coronavirus, as “proof”.

On his Facebook page, he paradoxically also claims that Covid-19 “is a total lie”, that 5G cell masts “will kill thousands of South Africans and people around the world with radiation”, and that people will be microchipped and the state will monitor their every move.

“The suspect was charged in terms of Regulation 11(5)(c) of the Disaster Management Act, in relation to ‘publishing any statement through any medium including social media with the intention to deceive any other person about measures by the government to address Covid-19’,” Peters said.

The DA on Monday pressed charges against Birch, saying these criminal charges are “meant to send a strong message to South Africans that the spreading of fake news will not be tolerated”.

“Spreading fake news, as this person has done, is against the Covid-19 Disaster Management Regulation 11(5) which prohibits and criminalises the spread of fake news pertaining to efforts of combating this pandemic. The regulations are clear that transgressors can be jailed for up to six months,” the party said.



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