A fake letter has been received by residents in the Garran area warning them that they are in “imminent danger of catching COVID-19” and that the testing centre at Garran is leaking the virus.
The letter, disseminated yesterday (16 July), warns residents to “filter all your water that will be consumed or touched by humans, pets and clothing when the testing centre spreads COVID-19 through the local water supply”.
While the flyer contains no letterhead or markings, it contains a link to a website that promotes a US conspiracy-theory documentary called No One Gets Out Alive, about “the outright destruction of the human habitat … creating a toxic sky under which we are continuously sprayed with lethal combinations of aerosols that we are breathing in every day”.
The ACT Government has moved to reassure the community that the letter is not from an official health agency and does not contain endorsed health information.
“Canberrans in Garran and surrounds are being warned to disregard information in a flyer they may have received, entitled Important COVID-19 health warning,” ACT Health said in a statement.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith labelled the one-page flyer as a “conspiracy” and “dangerous misinformation” while speaking to ABC radio this morning (17 July).
“It really is conspiracy theory stuff of mammoth proportions,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“It’s very irresponsible to produce this kind of material.”
“What we really need to do is get the message out that this is really full of far-fetched lies, it is absolutely conspiracy theory stuff, and doesn’t bear any resemblance to the truth,” Ms Stephen-Smith told the ABC.
A number of people had been in contact with ACT Health expressing anger and frustration about the fake letter this morning, and asking whether police could investigate.
The Health Minister said she would be surprised if people would believe the letter, and the matter would be dealt with by ACT Policing.
Commander of the ACT Policing COVID-19 Taskforce, Detective Superintendent Jason Kennedy, said the letter received by residents in Garran does not include information that is consistent with ACT Government health advice.
“ACT Policing has been made aware of a letter distributed in Garran that makes a number of claims about COVID-19 and a local testing centre.
“During a community emergency or significant event, it is important that people seek information from a trusted source. The ACT Government has a dedicated website which includes extensive information for the public and there is also a COVID-19 hotline (6207 7244) so that you can call to speak to someone about any concerns you may have.
“I would encourage our community to connect with the ACT Government as a single point of truth should they have any questions about COVID-19.
“We understand that this is a time when everyone in our community is concerned about the potential health impacts of COVID-19. People should always be wary of letters, pamphlets or advertisements received in the mail that could contain misinformation,” Det Supt Kennedy said.
The letter comes as record numbers of people have presented at testing centres in Canberra for COVID-19.
ACT Health recorded 1129 negative tests for the virus on Wednesday (15 July), the highest number of negative tests since the pandemic began. The ACT has now gone a full week since the last positive case of COVID-19 was recorded on Friday 10 July.
Another 875 people have recorded negative tests in the past 24 hours to 17 July.
The COVID-19 Surge Centre, on the Garran Oval, started operating as a dedicated testing facility from 11 July.
The centre was designed to the highest standards of infection control and safety for staff, patients and the community. The ACT Government partnered with Aspen Medical and sought advice from the World Health Organization in the design of the emergency response facility at Garran.