Donald Trump has come under fire from medical experts for suggesting further research and tests into whether injecting COVID-19 patients with disinfectant could cure them from coronavirus.
Doctors immediately warned against the unproven idea, blasting it as “irresponsible” and “dangerous”, and said it could kill people.
The US president made his remarks after one of his officials gave a presentation on the impacts of bleach and sunlight on coronavirus and how it reacts to different temperatures and surfaces, during Thursday’s White House COVID-19 task force briefing.
William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, said government research showed the virus appears to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight, heat and humidity.
While he noted the research still needed to be tested and should be be treated with caution, Mr Trump suggested researchers apply their findings, including utilising the effect of ultraviolet light on coronavirus, to COVID-19 patients.
“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that has not been checked but you’re going to test it,” he said.
“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that, too, sounds interesting
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“Right, and then I see the disinfectant, it knocks it out in a minute, one minute and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or or almost a cleaning, ’cause you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.
“So it will also be interesting to check that so you’re gonna have to use medical doctors. But it sounds, it sounds interesting to me so we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in and one minute, that’s – that’s pretty powerful.”
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At one point, he turned to Dr Deborah Birx, the co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, and asked her to speak with doctors “to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure”.
“Maybe you can, maybe you can’t,” he said: “I’m not a doctor. I am a person that has a good, you know what,” he added while pointing to his head.
Phil Rucker of The Washington Post said to Mr Trump: “Respectfully, sir, you’re the president, and people tuning into the briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They’re not looking for rumours.”
Mr Trump responded: “Hey Phil. I’m the president, and you’re fake news. And know what I will say to you? I will say very nicely. I know you well. I know you well. Because I know the guy, I see what he writes. He’s a total faker.
“Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? It is just a suggestion, from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man.
“[Bryan] He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers, so that’s it. That’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good, if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.”
Pulmonologist Dr Vin Gupta told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous.”
Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, tweeted: “Trump’s briefings are actively endangering the public’s health. Boycott the propaganda. Listen to the experts. And please don’t drink disinfectant.”
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Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, added: “It is incomprehensible to me that a moron like this holds the highest office in the land and that there exist people stupid enough to think this is OK. I can’t believe that in 2020 I have to caution anyone listening to the president that injecting disinfectant could kill you.”
The president was already facing criticism for championing hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19, which has been shown to provide no benefit and possibly a higher risk of death.