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COVID-19: Public outrage after Trump suggests injecting disinfectant as treatment

US President Donald Trump has been lambasted by the medical community after suggesting research into whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

He also appeared to propose irradiating patients’ bodies with UV light, an idea dismissed by a doctor at the briefing.

Another of his officials had moments earlier said sunlight and disinfectant were known to kill the infection.

Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested. 

Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system. 

What did President Trump say?

During Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat.

The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.

William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the findings at the news conference.

While noting the research should be treated with caution, Mr Trump suggested further research in that area.

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” the president said, turning to Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, “and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it. 

“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of 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,” the president continued.


He turned again to Dr Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” Dr Birx said. “I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But I’ve not seen heat or light.” “I think it’s a great thing to look at,” Mr Trump said.

The idea has already been lambasted by journalists and the medical community, with pulmonologist Dr Vin Gupta warning the public on NBC News that Trump’s idea could have fatal consequences: ‘This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous.

‘It’s a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves.’    

Joe Biden advised the president to focus on PPE and testing, rather than wild theories: ‘UV light? Injecting disinfectant? Here’s an idea, Mr. President: more tests. Now. And protective equipment for actual medical professionals.’      

Speaking on Thursday evening, Trump asked Bryan: ‘Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light? And I think you said, that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it.

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