A former New Zealand Bachelor contestant and influencer has come under fire for an Instagram post about her experience with Covid-19.
Naz Khanjani said on Instagram lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantine wasn't "necessary" and that the virus is "just like any other flu".
Top epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says the post was a "fallacy" of generalisations and warned others against misinformation about the virus on social media.
Khanjani, 29, compared coronavirus to influenza in the post and wrote about her own experience having Covid-19. She lives in the UK, which recently entered a strict lockdown to slow down the rapid spread of the virus.
She said she was feeling "so much better" after earlier contracting the virus in the UK. She moved there in September to be with her partner and believes she caught the virus on Boxing Day.
"I can easily say I've had other 'normal' flus which have been 100 times worse than this one," she posted.
"I understand there are people out there who have been [affected] greatly or have lost love ones due to Covid.
"I'm not saying it can't be dangerous nor do I mean any disrespect. What I'm saying is I feel like it's just like any other flu out there with the same risks."
At the end of the post she wrote: "I strongly don't believe that locking down the world, putting these travel restrictions and quarantine stuff in place is actually necessary. This is wrong."
She encouraged her followers to "do their own research instead of listening to what the media say or randoms on social media".
While some agreed with her opinions, others criticised her beliefs in the comments.
"I know people overseas who did die," a follower wrote.
Another said: "This is not about you, this is about immune-compromised and older people and the lockdown is designed to keep them safe and ALIVE."
When contacted for comment by the Herald, Khanjani defended her post, saying she was speaking from her own personal experience. Hours after she released the post, she told followers on her stories to click on the photo and read her post in case it was removed by Instagram.
She told the Herald: "For those who have followed me for a long time, know that I'm all about positivity and helping others. The intent of this post was purely to ease people's minds who may have anxiety or fear."
In a written message shared on her Instagram stories, she reiterated she wasn't trying to dismiss those with worse experiences of the virus than her.
However, Baker says some of Khanjani's opinions in the post could be considered dangerous.
"This is a fallacy of her generalising her own experience," says Baker, responding to her belief that lockdowns and quarantining weren't necessary due to economic and mental health reasons.
"She's better [off] to stick to describing what her experience of the illness was and not suddenly turning into an epidemiologist or policy analyst and saying, 'because I had a mild illness, therefore I'm going to challenge the epidemiology of the disease for everyone'."
"She should stick to the facts about her own experience, because that's a genuine thing."
When asked about Khanjani's stance that Covid-19 carried the same level of risk as the flu, Baker pointed out scientific research and population health data says otherwise.
"It's good for people to describe their experience, but it's not good if they're quite prominent or a social influencer, to say that's what everyone can expect.
"Most definitely at a population level [Covid-19] is not like the flu, it's about 15-20 times more dangerous than the season flu, and of course the risk varies by age."
He added: "Basically, at a population level, for a typical western country, who have got relatively large numbers in all age groups, around 1 per cent of the population will die from the infection and that's about a 15 to 20 times higher mortality risk than with the seasonal influenza."
Baker also highlighted the potential for long-term symptoms after a person had recovered from Covid-19, known as "long Covid".
"If anyone doubts this is different from the seasonal flu, you only have to look at the experience of countries who are in the grips of a very intense pandemic," he says.
He says Khanjani should refrain from generalising about what society should do based on her own symptoms.
"It's nonsensical," he said. "It's dangerous to go beyond your area of expertise, and there's nothing wrong with describing your experience. But don't then suddenly say that's the experience everyone will have when they encounter the virus."