Coronavirus conspiracy theorist’s $1m challenge
A failed Gold Coast property spruiker has emerged as a popular COVID-19 conspiracy theorist whose videos are watched by hundreds of thousands.
But health experts have pilloried the claims and warned that conspiracy theories risk derailing efforts to overcome the deadly coronavirus.
Jamie Neville McIntrye, who promoted illegal land banking schemes that cost investors nearly $7 million, claims to have put up $1 million for proof coronavirus deaths are not inflated.
His Facebook video tagged "$1 million challenge that the media and Governments are lying to us about the number of real deaths from the Coronavirus" has been viewed more than 100,000 times.
"I'm putting a million dollars on the line - journalists in Australia TV presenter or politician prove to me that the COVID death tallies you're telling daily can be backed up with evidence," he says in the video.
"I'm saying they're deliberately inflated. Many of these people are dying of cancer, of flues (sic), of other things and it's no big deal."
Mr McIntrye acknowledges coronavirus is "killing people and it is a serious health concern" but claims politicians are inflating covid deaths "not inadvertently but deliberately".
"I'm calling bullsh*t on the Coronavirus issue now as well, and putting up a $1 million challenge that it's a falsified pandemic and hyped for political agendas, thus why they are inflated death and case numbers," he wrote on Facebook.
Mr McIntrye, once described by a Federal Court judge as a potential "menace to the investing public", recently sprouted anti World Health Organisation (WHO)/ Bill Gates theories at a Gold Coast rally purportedly in support of Victorians in lockdown.
His high profile model girlfriend - former Miss Earth Australia Nadine Roberts - has also shared his videos along with other coronavirus conspiracy theories.
While conspiratorial rumblings surrounding COVID-19 may seem innocuous, health authorities believe they risk damaging public health messaging.
Infection disease expert Dr Paul Griffin, who is working with the University of Queensland to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, said conspiracy theories risked undermining the work taken to overcome the pandemic.
"If these conspiracy theories extend to undermine the uptake of a vaccine when it's available, then the outcome that we need, which is to be able to get back to normal or close to normal, will be a lot further off than it would have otherwise been," he said.
Respiratory physician Dr Dan Chambers from the Prince Charles Hospital, said the WHO had issued clear guidance on attributing cause of death to COVID-19 to ensure consistency across the world.
"Perhaps most importantly, death certificates are completed by individual doctors who were caring for the patient - it is nonsensical to suggest that governments are somehow coercing medical practitioners, en masse, to falsify death certificates," he said.
University of the Sunshine Coast's nursing program leader Mathew Mason said suspect COVID claims "sowed the seeds of doubt" in people's minds and could worsen outcomes.
"America has significant issues in this space as do some of the European countries and they are dealing with an outbreak magnitudes larger than what we are dealing with here in Australia," he said.
"If we start chipping away confidence in the public health messaging, then it would not take long to get to a much worse situation."
In 2016 the Federal Court barred Mr McIntrye from managing a corporation for 10 years for his involvement in operating unlicensed investment schemes.
Justice Robert Bromwhich said while there was no evidence of dishonesty, Mr McIntyre displayed " incompetence and serious irresponsibility" and disregard for legal obligations.
Originally published as Coronavirus conspiracy theorist's $1m challenge