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Video of person smoking in a pile of body bags isn’t a staging of COVID-19 victims but part of a Russian music video

Posted on:  2024-04-17

Key takeaway

Excess mortality is a useful way to measure the overall impact of emerging threats—like war and disease—on a population’s health. Claims that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax or was simply never that bad belie the fact that it caused an estimated 14 million excess deaths from 2020 to 2021 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Reviewed content


A video showed people “preparing body bags for the evening news clip during the pandemic”

Source: Facebook, Facebook users, 2024-04-11

Verdict detail

Misrepresents source: The post interpreted a video showing body bags as fake COVID-19 victims being staged for the news. However, the video is, in fact, an excerpt from a Russian music video.

Full Claim

A video showed people “preparing body bags for the evening news clip during the pandemic”; “they are preparing dead Rona bodies for the news. One is still smoking”


In April 2024, a Facebook reel claimed to show people “preparing body bags for the evening news clip during the pandemic”. The brief footage showed a pile of black body bags loaded on a truck. Within the pile was a live person lying down and smoking a cigarette. The video also contained a sentence that appeared to be flipped, as if by a mirror, reading “they are preparing dead Rona bodies for the news. One is still smoking”.

These words and the footage combined strongly implied that COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic were fake, and that COVID-19 mortality was exaggerated by the media.

Claims of this ilk aren’t new. The narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax and that it was staged is popular in conspiratorial circles. Science Feedback and other fact-checking organizations debunked various claims that bolstered this narrative (see here, here, and here). In fact, the same video was used to imply the same thing as early as 2021. At the time, several fact-checking organizations demonstrated that the claim was inaccurate and misrepresented the true nature of the video.

The AFP explained that the video is behind-the-scenes footage filmed by Russian artist Husky. Vasya Ivanov, credited as the production designer in the clip’s credits, posted the clip on the video-sharing platform Vimeo in November 2020. Ivanov then posted the footage showing the black bags and the smoking man on TikTok in March 2021.

Comparing the video footage posted on TikTok and the Facebook reel confirmed that this is indeed the same video. The main visual difference is that the version in the reel is a mirror image of the TikTok video (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Comparison of the video in the Facebook reel (left) and the original TikTok video clip (right). Note that the Facebook reel is a mirror image of the TikTok video.

Thus, the video is from an artistic production. It doesn’t depict an attempt to exaggerate COVID-19 mortality by staging a pile of COVID-19 victims, as implied in the reel.

Contrary to the video’s implication, the COVID-19 pandemic was real and its death toll is elevated. Most countries registered excess all-cause mortality during the pandemic. All-cause mortality is better at capturing the real toll of the pandemic than only looking at COVID-19 deaths because it also includes COVID-19 deaths that were not correctly diagnosed and reported. The World Health Organization estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with more than 14 million excess deaths between 2020 and 2021[1].


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