Govt Looks Away as Ramdev Keeps Spreading COVID Misinformation

Ramdev has made several false and misleading statements about COVID-19 cures that have been debunked before.

5 min read
Hindi Female

After claiming that “lakhs had died from taking allopathic medicines for COVID-19”, another video of self-proclaimed Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has surfaced where he can be seen saying that more than 1,000 doctors died of coronavirus infections despite being fully vaccinated.

He then goes on to mock the doctors and question the effectiveness of the vaccines. But he doesn’t support his argument with any reasoning or evidence.

This, however, is not the first time that Ramdev has made such a misleading statement. He has made several such statements about possible cures, remedies for treating COVID-19 in the past, which have been fact-checked repeatedly.

However, despite the Indian Medical Association (IMA), doctors and health experts calling him out, the Central government has done little to put a stop to Ramdev’s claims.

In fact, he is a regular on several Hindi TV news channels, where he is seen propagating falsehoods, which are neither backed by data nor science. Health experts believe that such claims could further fuel India's deadly second wave of COVID infections.

Here's a look at some of his COVID-19 cures and preventive measures that have been debunked in the past.

‘1,000 Doctors Died Despite Taking Vaccine’

Talking to people during one of his Yoga sessions, broadcast live on Aastha Channel’s Twitter handle on 21 May, Ramdev can be seen mocking doctors and questioning the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

“1,000 doctors have died even after getting both doses of the vaccine. What kind of doctors are they if they could not save themselves?” he asked, as his audience laughed with him.

He also claimed to be a doctor with “divinity” and “dignity” and asked kids to become a 'doctor' like him. His statement can be heard around 1:13:00 into the video.

However, the government has not released the data on the number of doctors who succumbed to COVID. The IMA, though, on 22 May said that 420 doctors had lost their lives to the disease since the beginning of the second wave.

On 20 May, IMA had said that very few fully vaccinated (received two doses of the vaccine) had lost their lives to COVID-19. IMA President Dr Jayalal said, “We are not confident of the vaccination status of all. But going by the data we get, not being fully vaccinated is the main cause behind the deaths.”

In the absence of data provided by the government or the IMA, Ramdev’s claim is unsubstantiated. It can also lead to vaccine hesitancy given his mass following.


Insensitive and Misleading Comments on Oxygen Shortage

While India was grappling with a massive shortage of oxygen and hospitals and several states were putting out SOS calls for oxygen, Ramdev was seen talking to a crowd and mocking the situation.

Commenting on the insufficient cylinders, he said, "People are looking for cylinders outside while God has given you two cylinders right here inside you," he says while referring to one's lungs. "Use them, fools!" he added.

In the video, Ramdev also claims he was able to increase oxygen levels in people from 70-80 per cent to 98 and 100 per cent through one hour of yoga.

Yet again, there is no evident to back this claim.

Several doctors have recommended ‘proning’ as a way to improve oxygen flow in patients who are critical. However, even this technique has not been scientifically tested in this situation and experts say it is difficult to establish the extent of its effectiveness.

“There is no adverse effect related to the position. However, we must keep in mind that proning is not the sole solution to improve oxygen level and it should be complemented with other necessary treatments.”
Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Head of Department, Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram

It is important for patients to seek doctor’s advice when their oxygen level falls and not depend solely on natural remedies that could turn out to be fatal.


Broken Science And False Claims Behind Coronil

But this is not it. Earlier this year, Ramdev’s ‘Coronil and Swasari’ were in news when it was reported to have received WHO certification.

At the launch, which happened in the presence of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Ramdev claimed that Patanjali's Coronil’ has been recognised as a medicine for COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

However, when we reached out to WHO, it said that it had not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment of COVID-19. Later Patanjali, too, issued a clarification on Twitter, and said that the “WHO GMP-compliant CoPP certificate to Coronil is issued by DCGI, Government of India and not WHO”.

But this was not Coronil’s first brush with controversy, earlier last year, Ramdev claimed that the drug was the first “evidence-based” medicine for COVID-19. But later, took a U-turn and said it was never introduced the medicine as a “cure” for the novel coronavirus. Health Experts questioned the test design, the selection of candidates in the trial and credibility of the drug.


Ramdev Claimed Mustard Oil Helps Fight COVID-19

In April last year, when a strict lockdown was imposed across the country to prevent coronavirus infections, Ramdev was seemingly making an unverified claim that putting mustard oil in the nose would cure COVID-19.

Ramdev spoke at a special session at ‘e-Agenda Aaj Tak’, where he prescribed certain exercises and practices for people to take up amid the lockdown that, he said, would have health benefits.

Speaking at the e-session, Ramdev said that if one applied mustard oil inside their nostril, the novel coronavirus would flow into one’s stomach and would be killed by the acids present there.

In May 2020, The Quint spoke with Dr Sumit Ray, a critical care specialist in Delhi, who said that there is no evidence to back the claim that any nasal drop, oil, etc can trickle the coronavirus into the stomach.

“The novel coronavirus attaches and then enters the cells in the nasal cavities and throat and moves further down to attach to the receptors in the lung. Physical barriers like mustard oils etc do not seem to have any effect on stopping the attachment and progression of the virus,” Dr Ray said.

After Ramdev criticised allopathic medicine, the IMA called upon Vardhan to take action against him under the Epidemic Diseases Act for his comments on modern medicine.

The health minister wrote to Ramdev and asked him to withdraw the “extremely unfortunate” statement.

Ramdev then ‘withdrew’ his statement on allopathic medicine only to write an open letter to allopathic doctors and the IMA a day later. In this letter, Ramdev posed 25 questions on treatments of various health conditions.

In the letter, he asked if allopathy had medicines for fatty liver and liver cirrhosis. “Does the pharma industry have permanent treatment for thyroid, arthritis, colitis and asthma?” he asked.

Fact-checkers and health professionals are going the extra mile to debunk misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine. But the government needs to act and put a stop to the false claims and misinformation spread by people like Ramdev.

And as we prepare for future waves of the infection, we must remember WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus’ warning – “We’re not just fighting a pandemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”


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