Fact checking PM’s viral video

PM Oli’s viral video is full of misinformation

Published On: April 19, 2020 09:27 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 19: A video of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli talking about the coronavirus has gone viral on social media platforms. During a video conference meeting held last week with the chief ministers of seven provinces, PM Oli is seen explaining the nature of coronavirus, its treatment and transmission methods. 

However, his attempt to educate the chief ministers about the virus with scientifically not proven facts has been a matter of mockery on Facebook and Twitter. One of the most controversial statements PM Oli makes is that the coronavirus is a non-living being and its outer fatty layer makes the virus a living organism, and hot water melts its outer fatty layer.

Coronaviruses are made up of one strip of RNA, and that genetic material is surrounded by a membrane studded with little spike proteins. (Under a microscope, those proteins stick up in a ring around the top of the virus, giving it its name—“corona” is Latin for “crown.”) When the virus gets into the body, those spike proteins attach to host cells, and the virus injects that RNA into the cell’s nucleus, hijacking the replication machinery there to make more virus. Infection ensues.

Medical practitioners and researchers across the world are currently struggling to find out why the medicine available for similar kinds of disease has not been able to kill or eliminate the coronavirus. PM Oli has an easy explanation to this. He says that the reason why none of the drugs or available treatments have failed to kill or eliminate the virus is because it is not a living organism. "How do we kill something that has no life?" he asks.

A Washington Post article explains the nature of the virus. Outside a host, viruses are dormant. They have none of the traditional trappings of life: metabolism, motion, the ability to reproduce. When viruses encounter a host, they use proteins on their surfaces to unlock and invade its unsuspecting cells. “It’s switching between alive and not alive,” said Gary Whittaker, a Cornell University professor of virology. He described a virus as being somewhere “between chemistry and biology.”

PM Oli also says that taking hot steam, drinking hot water and washing hands and face with warm water are the most effective ways to cure the virus. Reuters has fact-checked claims of steam therapy killing coronavirus, and says it is false. The WHO does not suggest steam therapy as a cure for this virus.  

Harvard researchers used close genetic cousins of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — to model how it might behave in the coming months. But they arrived at a conclusion that drinking or washing hands and face with warm water does not help to rid off  the virus. 

Another controversial statement PM Oli makes in the video is that coronavirus is transmitted very quickly through eyes. He, therefore, goes on to say that wearing a mask alone does not help to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and that wearing glasses is equally important. But experts say it is yet to be determined if the virus is transmitted from one person to another person through eyes. However, a new report published by JAMA Ophthalmology found preliminary data may suggest severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), might be transmitted through the eye. But there is no evidence to show that the coronavirus is transmitted faster through our eyes than the nose, as claimed by PM Oli. 

Many in social media have taken strong exception to the controversial and scientifically inaccurate statements by the prime minister. "Why we should constantly tell our leaders to shut up and listen to people of science. Our netas [i.e. leaders] have time and again looked either too lost or too arrogant while explaining the science of corona," tweeted senior journalist Akhilesh Upadhya, in an apparent reference to the prime minister's video that has been shared widely on social media platforms.


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