A viral list of preventive measures such as avoiding travelling and maintaining social distancing to fight against COVID-19 has been falsely attributed to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi. The ICMR is the apex research body for COVID-19 while Sir Ganga Ram Hospital is a dedicated COVID-19 hospital in Delhi.
BOOM spoke to spokespersons of both institutes who confirmed that the message did not originate from them.
The list includes preventive measures such as avoiding travelling for two years, not eating food from outside for the next year, avoiding large social gatherings, wearing a face mask etc.
However, several claims in the message are not scientifically proven to help prevent COVID-19 - these include choosing only vegetarian food, not wearing wrist watches and belts, and avoiding handkerchiefs while only using sanitisers and tissues.
The other claims of following social distancing norms are explained by medical professionals and they can bring about a behavioural change.
BOOM received several messages on its WhatsApp helpline with the message falsely attributed to ICMR and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital respectively.
Both the claims are also viral on Facebook.
BOOM contacted spokespersons of both ICMR and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
ICMR spokesperson Dr. Lokesh Sharma denied this statement. "All official communication and declarations by the ICMR are posted on the website. The ICMR has not made any list with these preventive measures."
Similarly, Ajoy Sehgal, the media relations officer for Sir Ganga Ram Hospital also denied that any body from the hospital made these claims.
"This message is fake. Earlier, the message was viral with names of some doctors who were claimed to be from the hospital. However, those doctors were also never a part of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital's doctor networks."
The message is also riddled with spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. In points 9. and 10, the message requests to be careful about one particular week as well as talking about avoiding mess.
There are 21 claims in the message. Most of these claims discuss social distancing norms along with personal hygiene preventive measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands, and taking a bath after coming from outside.
The three claims of choosing vegetarian food, avoiding wrist watches and belts and avoiding handkerchiefs are not scientifically backed.
BOOM has previously published an AFP story that dismisses the claim that the World Health Organization has published a report stating that no vegetarian has contracted COVID-19 and consuming the same will prevent COVID-19.
There have been no studies indicating that belts or wrist watches cause COVID-19. The claim that they should be avoided, thus, does not have any scientific backing.
Along with this, the claim that handkerchiefs should be avoided also does not have any scientific evidence. Health professionals across the world have appropriated the use of handkerchiefs and cloth masks to cover the nose and the mouth when there was a shortage in supply of surgical masks.
BOOM has been actively debunking news around COVID-19 since the news around it in early January. We did a study analysing the areas that the misinformation cycles concentrate on. Read: Fake News In The Time Of Coronavirus: A BOOM Study
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