Among the Covid sceptics: ‘We are being manipulated, without a shadow of a doubt’

Among the Covid sceptics: ‘We are being manipulated, without a shadow of a doubt’

The Guardian

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Who are the people who have come to follow wild conspiracy theories about Covid-19?

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Anna, a young woman from Bradford, was waiting for surgery for endometriosis. The surgery was cancelled, leaving her in excruciating pain. She was forced to close her business, a small tattoo studio that she had opened two years earlier, at the age of 24. She could no longer pay for the weekly counselling that had been helping her deal with her troubled childhood. Her partner lost his job. Anna was convinced that if she caught Covid, she would die. “I was in a terrified bubble, having the news on constantly, crying, worrying, panicking,” she told me. For weeks, she waited anxiously for news about support for shuttered businesses. The cash grant, when it finally came, fell far short. Other business expenses – insurance, bills – went on her credit card. She considered suicide.

Feeling abandoned by the government and frustrated by the daily press briefings, Anna and her partner researched the virus online. On Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, they came across theories about the origins of coronavirus that the mainstream media weren’t talking about – that it was engineered in a lab in China, say, or that it had been artificially spliced with HIV. Some of it seemed implausible to Anna, but it was enough to convince her that the media wasn’t telling the full story. “Loads of people were saying ‘even if you die from a heart attack, they’ll put it down as a Covid death’. I was looking into that, and how many people who died had pre-existing health conditions,” she said. “It was to make me feel better, so I wouldn’t be as scared.”

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