Union Min VK Singh cites fake WhatsApp forward about ‘WHO lockdown protocol’ on national TV

On April 9, Union Minister General VK Singh spoke with India Today’s Aaj Tak about UP government’s decision to seal affected areas or ‘hotspots’ of coronavirus. It was hosted by journalist Rohit Sardana. Before concluding the interview, Sardana asked the minister for his opinion on the question of extending the lockdown.

At 10:36 mins in the interview, Sardana can be heard saying, “Should the lockdown be extended or if the hotspots are now locked and the rest of the people should be given permission to get little bit free.”

To which, Singh responds, “See, it would be good if…there is one protocol by the World Health Organization. You have done ( a lockdown) for 21-days then you are given relaxation for 5 days and then another 21-days. The way the infection spreads, the way the number of cases has shot up, the percentage has increased, we need to exercise restraint for some more time…”

VK Singh cited a purported “WHO protocol” for lockdown according to which, once a country implements a lockdown for 21-days, there needs to be a 5-day hiatus before another lockdown for 21-days is implemented.

WHO has not issued any “lockdown protocol”

Alt News had earlier debunked social media messages which also mentioned the so-called WHO protocol.

On April 5, WHO South-East Asia rubbished the messages dubbing them “fake” and “baseless”.

Union Minister Singh, therefore, cited a fake document accredited to the World Health Organisation.

Moreover, it likely that the viral message is based on media reports and a study by Rajesh Singh and R Adhikari of Cambridge University, UK. The duo published the research paper ‘Age-structured impact of social distancing on the COVID-19 epidemic in India’. The study found that a three-week lockdown is insufficient to prevent a resurgence hence, suggests protocols for lockdown with periodic relaxation. You can read our detailed fact-check here.

Thus, Union Minister General VK Singh cited a non-existent WHO protocol that was earlier circulating on social media, suggesting periodic relaxations between an elongated lockdown. It may be reiterated that these protocols were dubbed “fake” and “baseless” by the WHO.

[Update: Rajesh Singh and R. Adhikari were referred to as students at Cambridge University. Singh is a post-doctoral researcher while Adhikari is an assistant professor at the University. The same has been rectified.]

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