An Indian politician who filmed himself sitting in mud puddle and blowing a conch, claiming that it prevented coronavirus, has tested positive for the disease.
Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria, an MP from the northern state of Rajasthan, was among 24 MPs who tested positive for the virus on September 14, local media reported.
A month before the diagnosis, he had uploaded a bizarre video to his Facebook page in which he could be seen sitting shirtless in a muddle field, blowing a conch shell.
‘Go out, get wet in the rain, sit in the dirt, work on the farm, blow a conch … and eat “desi” things. One gains immunity from doing these things,’ he says in Hindi.
Desi is an Indian term which means local, indigenous, or pure.
The news broke as India surged past 5million confirmed cases of coronavirus, adding 97,894 cases overnight Wednesday, the country’s largest single-day rise yet.
India has also suffered more than 83,000 deaths, with 1,132 people perishing from the disease between Wednesday and Thursday.
It took India just 11 days to go from 4million cases to 5million, meaning it now has the fastest-rising coronvirus outbreak of any country in the world.
Jaunapuria is far from the only prominent politician to propose an odd cure for coronavirus.
Belarus president Alexsander Lukashenko said earlier this year that riding tractors, drinking vodka and taking saunas would prevent the disease, before testing positive.
In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador revealed he was carrying amulets which he said protect him from disease, while Puebla Governor Luis Miguel Barbosa Huerta claimed poor people were immune to the disease.
Suman Haripriya, another Indian lawmaker from the state of Assam, touted the theory that cow urine and dung could be used to sterilise infected areas, while Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, suggested yoga was also a cure.
And US president Donald Trump suggested that scientists should look into whether injecting disinfectant could be a cure for the virus.
India is struggling to cope with its rapidly expanding outbreak, as supplies of oxygen run short across the country.
In the big states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, that are also some of the worst-affected by the virus, demand for oxygen has more than tripled, doctors and government officials said, prompting urgent calls for help.
‘Desperate patients have been calling me through the night but I don’t know when I will get stock,’ Rishikhesh Patil, an oxygen supplier in the city of Nashik, said.
India’s meagre health resources are poorly divided across the country. Nearly 600 million Indians live in rural areas, and with the virus spreading fast across India’s vast hinterlands, health experts worry that hospitals could be overwhelmed.
Nationwide, India is testing more than 1 million samples per day, exceeding the World Health Organisation’s benchmark of 140 tests per 1 million people.
But many of these are antigen tests, which look for virus proteins and are faster but less accurate compared to RT-PCR, the gold standard for confirming the coronavirus by its genetic code.
With the economy contracting by a record 23.9% in the April-June quarter leaving millions jobless, the Indian government is continuing with relaxing lockdown restrictions that were imposed in late March.
The government in May announced a $266 billion stimulus package, but consumer demand and manufacturing are yet to recover.
A large number of offices, shops, businesses, liquor shops, bars and restaurants have reopened. Restricted domestic and international evacuation flights are being operated every day along with train services.
Schools will reopen for senior students from 9-12th standards for consultation with teachers next week.