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False claim: Government ‘uses virus’ to control all aspects of citizens’ lives

An image circulated on social media makes the claim that the U.S. government is “using” the spread of the coronavirus to curb personal freedoms ( here ) by taking control of travel, public functions, and resources, and despite “survival rates” for those infected being “extremely high”.

One account that shared the image wrote in the post, “Martial law…without martial law”.

The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. has indeed forced cancellations, closures and postponements throughout sports, entertainment, and education ( here ). These measures are medically recommended and fall in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations limiting workplace risk, and, upon a possible outbreak of coronavirus in particular communities, avoiding public transport and crowded places ( here ).

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also addresses potential mitigation activities that involve differing degrees of social distancing, in accordance to the level of community impact of the coronavirus, ( here ). Other countries, such as the Philippines and Italy, have respectively implemented local and nationwide lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus ( here ; here ). On March 15, 2020, the CDC announced restrictions on gatherings of 50 people or more for eight weeks. “This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus,” the CDC clearly states on its website ( here ).

These restrictions have not only been communicated at the federal level by the CDC. States have taken independent measures as well. Examples in Washington state and New York state can be seen here and here .

Restrictions on non-essential travel as well as the closure of schools and businesses are not unheard-of measures during public health emergencies ( here ). In 2009, for example, Mexico implemented a temporary lockdown in the country to help slow the spread of the H1N1 flu ( here  ).

The claim that coronavirus is developed or designed and used to scare the public is unfounded. The CDC explains the source of COVID-19 was most likely a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China ( here ). COVID-19 is believed to have spread from an animal to a person much like MERS and SARS. There is no indication or publicly available evidence suggesting that the coronavirus was "designed".

VERDICT

False: the actions taken by the U.S. government are in response to the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country and mirror restrictions taken by other nations. There is no evidence that COVID-19 was in any way “developed” for political gain through such measures.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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