Social media users licking toilet bowls and other surfaces in a so-called ‘Coronavirus Challenge’ have been slammed for putting lives at risk.
Shocking videos have emerged showing influencers across different platforms performing the stunt, despite official advice urging the public to follow a variety of health measures to stop the killer pandemic’s spread.
One influencer, who Metro.co.uk has chosen not to name, appears to have started the ‘challenge’ on TikTok, by licking what seems to be an airplane toilet seat while a man sings ‘its corona time’ in the background.
Asked why she did it, she told Metro.co.uk: ‘I was tired of that bitch corona getting more publicity than ME. I’m the real celebrity.’
She continued: ‘(Health experts) can suck it.
‘I’m fine… I feel hot skinny rich and iconic… if thats the symptoms of corona then bitch I’m ill.’
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Pressed on whether she cared that people might die because of her actions, she said: ‘That’s their problem.’
In another video, a man licks a pole on public transport as a horrified mask-wearing commuter moves away from him.
Further footage shows a different influencer licking a public toilet bowl twice before turning to the camera and saying: ‘coronavirus challenge’ and then continuing to lick the surface. His Twitter account has since been suspended.
Similar stunts have also been posted on Instagram and Twitter.
The trend does not appear to be particularly widespread or being copied by a significant number of people, however, as of this evening, #CoronavirusChallenge had been viewed 931.6 million times on TikTok.
But that main hashtag is now being used predominantly by organisations like the British Red Cross, World Health Organisation and healthcare influencers to provide informative content on the pandemic and good hygiene practices. Videos using the hashtag also include links to more information on Covid-19.
Retired nurse Dr John Campbell, who has come to prominence through YouTube videos on the virus, told Metro.co.uk: ‘If these people (doing the challenge) are infected, they will leave virus on the surfaces they have licked, potentially infecting others. If the infected person subsequently dies, this means this bizarre behaviour could result in death of an innocent person.
‘If they are not infected, the virus may be contracted from potentially contaminated surfaces. This means the individual can contract the disease themselves. In addition they could spread the disease they have contracted and infect other people, some of whom may go on to die.’
NHS England has also expressed outrage at the behaviour.
Nikki Kanani, its Medical Director of Primary Care, told Metro.co.uk: ‘It is highly irresponsible for people to put their own health and the health of those around them on the line for no other reason than a pointless internet “challenge”.
‘Our NHS staff are working round the clock to prepare to treat those who need it during the peak of the pandemic – the last thing they need is internet trends unnecessarily putting people in hospital.’
Last night Britain saw the most restrictive measures in living memory imposed on the population to stop the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 400 people and infected at least 8,000 nationwide, according to official figures.
Footage of a man licking items on a supermarket shelf and of a train passenger in Belgium wiping his freshly-licked hand on a pole have not been linked to the online ‘challenge’.
Dr Lisa Ackerley – better known as the ‘hygiene doctor’ said: ‘This type of activity is totally irresponsible.
‘The situation is not a laughing matter; people may think they are invincible but without good hygiene, anyone could become ill and critically they could pass the virus on to other more vulnerable people who have a higher chance of dying.’
Globally, the pandemic has infected some 400,000 people and been linked to around 17,500 deaths, according to worldometers, which says 100,000 people have also recovered.
Today, India placed 1.3 billion people on lockdown as quarantine measures were ramped up across the globe.
A TiKTok spokesperson said: ‘The safety and well-being of our users is a top priority at TikTok. As we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous challenges that might lead to injury.
‘The content in question is a violation of our guidelines, and we will remove any such reported content.’
This morning, TikTok suggested to Metro.co.uk that it had seen only one example of ‘coronavirus challenge’ content on its site, which had since been removed.
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