New Health Minister Dr Adham Baba is facing the heat after spreading misinformation by suggesting that drinking warm water would prevent Covid-19 infection.
Twitterjaya reacted almost immediately after the segment of the interview was aired on TV1 yesterday evening, with some calling for his ouster or for him to be disallowed from giving public statements.
Former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan called for the return of Adham’s predecessor, Dzulkefly Ahmad, who was largely praised for his handling of the medical crisis prior to the sudden collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government in February.
“It’s not even funny. We should just get Dr Dzul (Dzulkefly) back to do national service. We are facing a crisis, and this is an obvious solution. This government should forget the politics and put us in safe hands please!” she tweeted.
The social media posting was made in response to a tweet by former Harapan deputy minister Hannah Yeoh.
“@KKMPutrajaya (Health Ministry) shouldn’t be made to fight fire during this critical time as a result of health minister’s lack of good sense. I hope TV stations stop inviting him to give his opinion.
“Malaysians don’t need more confusion now,” read the Segambut lawmaker’s tweet.
Local comedian and medical doctor Jason Leong deemed the minister a “buffoon”.
Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) Malaysia analyst Harris Zainul, meanwhile, called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to replace his new minister for “spreading false information”.
“This guy has to go for spreading false information, Muhyiddin Yassin. He is not fit to even be a spokesperson, what more a Minister. #AdhamByeBye.”
During the interview on RTM’s Bicara Naratif programme, Adham said the virus behind the Covid-19 outbreak “doesn’t like high temperatures” and advocated drinking warm water as means of prevention.
“This virus doesn’t like high temperatures…
“The virus will be eliminated, eliminated, and end up in the stomach. If it ends up in the stomach, there is acid and they lose.
“The important thing is to eliminate the virus from the throat before it enters the lungs because it loves the lower respiratory tract,” he said.
Such advice had already been debunked by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The minister’s advice was also debunked by United Kingdom-based Malaysian trainee surgeon Dr Nur Amalina Che Bakri, who said such claims were not “evidence-based”.
The claim also received ridicule abroad, with Singapore site Mothershipposting that: “The whole of China should have just resorted to drinking warm water and then none of this would have happened.”
Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has become the latest medical expert to debunk the claim made by Dr Adham Baba.
Trying to stop Covid-19 with warm water would kill the patient first, said Dr Lee.
In a Facebook post today, Lee said that in infected patients, the virus tends to be in deeper parts of the respiratory tract and not just the throat.
“Although high temperatures and hot water can kill the virus, you actually need to pump hot water into the lungs, and this will flood the lungs and kill the patient before the virus dies!” he said.
Lee said the respiratory tract and gastrointestinal system have different routes although they share a common area within the throat.
“If food or drink accidentally enters the lungs, it causes aspiration pneumonia which has serious consequences.
“Thus, there are mechanisms to prevent food or drink from entering the lungs when we eat,” he said.
According to a report by British broadcaster BBC, the rumour that drinking water at regular 15-minute intervals and keeping your mouth moist can protect you from Covid-19 is among the most widely shared online fables.
Last week, at least 27 people in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan and Alborz provinces died from alcohol poisoning, as some turned to ingesting industrial-grade ethanol and methanol in a misguided effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections.