Amid growing fear over the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, Ashwini Choubey, the Union Minister of State for Health, had some unusual advice for those seeking to protect themselves from the infectious illness.
Mr Choubey, whose previous "medical" advice included saying cow urine could be used to treat cancer, claimed today that sitting for 15 minutes in the sun could "improve immunity and kill coronavirus".
"The sun is hottest between 11 am and 2 pm. If we sit for 15 minutes, our Vitamin D levels will improve. It will also improve immunity and kill viruses like coronavirus," the BJP leader told news agency ANI.
#WATCH Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey: People should spend at least 15 minutes in the sun. The sunlight provides Vitamin D, improves immunity and also kills such (#Coronavirus) viruses. pic.twitter.com/F80PX6VOmy— ANI (@ANI) March 19, 2020
Ashwini Choubey's bizarre claim comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi last night urged parliamentarians and ministers not to make outrageous or unscientific claims on the pandemic, including tweeting or talking about remedies like cow urine that may be promoted by fringe groups.
On Monday the Union Health Ministry had released a three-page document listing "preventive measures". Neither Vitamin D nor exposure to sunlight found reference in that document.
While the sun is a good source of Vitamin D, there is no evidence to suggest an abundance of this vitamin, or sunlight, can protect against COVID-19 infection.
Medical experts have stressed the best measures against COVID-19 include social distancing, practicing proper cough and sneeze hygiene (including safely disposing tissues) and frequent washing of hands with soap or disinfectant.
There is no known vaccine for COVID-19, although testing is underway worldwide to develop one.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to bizarre claims, including assertions cow urine and cow dung may be used to cure infected. The claim was made by this month by an Assam BJP legislator inside the Assembly.
On Wednesday police in Bengal said a BJP activist had been arrested because a volunteer fell ill after drinking cow urine during a party event.
There are nearly 170 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with at least three deaths linked to the virus. Across the world over 8,000 have died, as per data from the World Health Organisation and over two lakh are infected.
As part of its response, the Indian government has shut international borders and suspended incoming visas from affected countries.
State governments have shut down public spaces, such as malls, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools, have urged citizens to refrain from large gatherings and closed schools and colleges.
People have also been encouraged to work from home in order to minimise mass contact and ensure social distancing, a measure seen by experts to be crucial in halting the spread of the virus.
With input from ANI