Is China making children wear spacesuits to protect them from Covid-19?
A cute video of children waddling around in astronaut costumes has caused a stir online, with some people claiming that it shows how China is forcing schoolchildren to wear spacesuits to school as part of their latest raft of Covid-19 restrictions. But the video has been taken out of its context - the Observers Truth or Fake team will show you how to find out where it comes from.
This video has mostly been shared online with captions and comments in English – but it’s drawn comments and shocked responses from people the world over, in Italian, Spanish and French. Many of the people sharing the video say how cruel it is for the children and how the pandemic and related restrictions like this will end up having an impact on children’s mental health.
How to find out where it comes from
To find out where a video comes from, your first reflex should be to do a reverse image search using a screen capture that you’ve taken of the video. This can often help to find out where the video was posted online before. We tend to use Google Images as our default reverse images search engine – but in this case, it wasn’t actually that helpful. Because the video had been filmed in China and published on Chinese media, it hadn’t appeared enough in Google search results for us to get much information about it.
So we turned to a Chinese search engine called Baidu to see if we could get more results. Baidu functions exactly as Google does – we were able to do a reverse image search with the screen capture we had already taken.
With that search, we found articles like this one which talks about what was happening in the video. It turns out that it was a sports event in a primary school in Shangrao on December 2. The kids were dressed up as taikonauts – Chinese astronauts – to pay tribute to the Chinese aerospace industry. In the images, and in a video posted elsewhere by the Chinese state media channel CGTN, it’s possible to see other children or parents who are there and aren’t wearing masks – let alone entire suits!
Is there some truth to the video?
So where did the false claim that these kids were wearing suits as protection against Covid-19 come from? While looking into the story, we actually found a couple of scenarios in which a Chinese kid did wear an astronaut costume as protection against the virus.
The first one dates back to April 2020, when a man ordered a taikonaut costume, added an air filtration system on the inside, and dressed his son in it.
The second example was in January 2021, when a little boy called Lucas became a star on Douyin – Chinese TikTok – after his father kitted him out with a spacesuit. A film of him waddling about the streets of Nantong, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, went viral online.
But in both of these cases, it’s not proven that wearing a space costume could actually stop you from catching the virus – it would depend on the quality of the costume’s air filtration device.
There is no indication that the Chinese government or other authorities have ordered children to wear special costumes to protect them from the virus. The current health protocol in China sets out that when a Covid-19 case is detected, the entire school must be shut down and classes moved online.