Conspiracy theories about the growing chip implant trend abound, exploiting fears surrounding the emerging technology. Recently, a clip was published online, purporting to show the South African president Cyrille Ramaphosa have a chip implant scanned. But that’s not true: the footage shows him having his temperature checked at an airport, which is a common screening measure. Temperature readings can be taken by pointing handheld infrared thermometers at the forehead or wrist.
The post was published on Facebook on November 1, 2023 and has since been shared more than 1,700 times.
The clip shows Ramaphosa disembarking a South African Air Force plane and being greeted by two military officers. Airport staff wearing reflective jackets are also present. One of them shows what looks like a hand-held thermometer to the president, who holds out the back of his hand.
Written in Afrikaans, the message translates to: “Look at his right hand, it has a microchip and is being scanned. »
The images were also shared elsewhere on Facebook and on X (formerly Twitter).
A microchip implant is a device that can be implanted into the body of a human or animal without requiring complicated surgery (archived here).
The emerging technology, which is gaining ground in the United States (archived here) and elsewhere (archived here), has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories spread on social media.
One such long-standing unfounded claim is that the Covid-19 pandemic was a cover for Bill Gates to secretly implant microchips in vaccines to track people (archived here).
In the comments section of one of the Facebook posts about the South African president, a user writes that Ramaphosa “now belongs to Satan, no wonder our country is in such a state (sic)”.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the marketing of a microchip implant for medical identification. Some conspiracy theorists then began linking this technology to the “mark of the beast” described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation (archived here).
Routine temperature check
AFP Fact Check discovered that the clip was originally posted on TikTok by Athi Geleba, head of digital communications for the South African presidency. Geleba’s TikTok handle, @AthiGeleba, can be seen in the video (archived here).
Geleba told AFP Fact Check that the clip was filmed when Ramaphosa was returning to South Africa after concluding a working trip to the United States where he was leading the country’s delegation to the 78th session of the General Assembly of United Nations in New York.
“It was a routine temperature check at the airport when the President recently arrived in the country after the UNGA conference in the United States,” she said.
At some airports, passengers and employees undergo regular body temperature scans administered by staff using handheld thermal devices to screen for contagious infections such as Covid-19.
Although it is common for people’s temperatures to be taken by pointing these devices at their forehead (archived here), some can also be pointed at the wrist (archived here).
Many brands sell infrared thermometers that work on the wrist, or both on the forehead and the wrist (see examples here and here, archived here and here).
The communications department at South Africa’s Oliver Tambo Airport told AFP Fact Check that “the temperature of arriving passengers is regularly checked at the airport.”
“For VIPs, we normally use handheld thermometers to check the head or wrist, but for other travelers who use the airport’s regular passenger tunnels, we have installed screening devices that automatically check body temperature.”
AFP Fact Check has previously debunked the microchip-related claims here, here and here (archived here, here and here).