A video shared on an Assamese news channel called NK24X7 showed a Guwahati-based Astrologer Mr Khageswar Goswami claiming that the third wave of COVID-19 was caused by the solar eclipse that took place on 10 June.
He goes on to claim that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue until 2023 and that pregnant women should stay at home and should bathe multiple times during and after the solar eclipse.
However, we spoke with doctors who dismissed the claim and said that a solar eclipse didn't have any impact on the growth of a virus and neither will pregnant women be affected because of it.
The video, that was posted on the news channels Facebook page on 10 June, started off by discussing the time and duration of the solar eclipse. Goswami then starts talking about the effects of the solar eclipse and says that it will "pollute" the atmosphere and give rise to the spread of bacteria and virus.
A similar claim was viral last year in when a scientist in Chennai had claimed that the "mutated particle interaction of the first neutron emitted after the solar eclipse owing to fission energy" were the reason behind the COVID-19 pandemic. He then went on to say that the solar eclipse would end the pandemic.
"The sunlight and solar eclipse will be its natural remedy for this virus," he told ANI.
Similar claims were seen being spread on Twitter by other astrologer and astrology handles, archives of which can be found here and here.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
The world witnessed the first Solar Eclipse of the year 2021 on Thursday, 10 June. A Solar Eclipse is a phenomenon that occurs when Moon comes between Earth and the Sun. The moon casts its shadow on Earth, and we will witness ring-like shape around it. It is popularly known as the 'ring of fire' or Annular Solar Eclipse.
Do Bacteria and Virus Increase During a Solar Eclipse?
We reached out to the members of Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC), a group of Indian scientists who came together voluntarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists and doctors at the ISRC had debunked the claim last year and said, "Solar eclipses do not impact any viruses or microorganisms on Earth."
"It is true that high energy electromagnetic radiation, including that coming from the sun, can destroy the virus. However, this high energy component of solar radiation is entirely absorbed by the upper atmosphere of the Earth and does not reach the surface of the Earth. Since viruses propagate among living organisms on the Earth’s surface, high energy solar radiation cannot impact them," the ISRC statement added.
We also found a paper published in the Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences by the Department of Microbiology, A J Institute of Medical Sciences, Kuntikan, Karnataka.
The study found that there was no significant change in microbes during the solar eclipse as compare to normal sunlight.
Are Pregnant Women at Risk During an Eclipse?
Among the many myths around the solar eclipse, the claim around its negative impacts on pregnant women has been around for ages.
FIT spoke with Dr Anuradha Kapur, head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, at Max Hospital, Saket. Dr Kapur dismisses all these claims as myths, saying eclipse has no effect on pregnant women.
"It’s a strong belief among pregnant women in India. And I always advice them to meet the doctors. You don’t have to stop eating, and you need to protect yourself from dehydration. If you feel weak, take rest, and don’t fall for such superstitions."Dr Anuradha Kapur, Head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, at Max Hospital
"So many women came to us asking for advice, and we tell them to focus on their health and keep their anxiety levels low," she adds.
NASA too released a list of misconceptions around eclipses and in it they said that there is no proof that eclipse has any physical impact on humans.
It is, however, important to note that one must take certain precautions if they want to see a solar eclipse. It is advised to not look at the Sun through any unfiltered camera lens, telescope or any other optical device. One should wear proper solar glasses to if they are planning to see the eclipse.
Evidently, the claim that the eclipse will cause or end COVID-19 is unscientific and false.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women. It was flagged to us by our partner organisation Radio Brahmaputra.)
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