This photo taken on June 17, 2020, shows medical workers carrying a man who is the last patient recovered from COVID-19 in the Wuhan pulmonary hospital in Wuhan, China. (AFP / Str)

False claim circulates online that China is no longer hospitalising COVID-19 patients

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Multiple Facebook and Twitter posts shared hundreds of times in June 2020 claim that people in China have stopped going to hospitals for COVID-19 treatment and instead "kill the virus with heat" through "steam inhalation"; "hot gargles" and "hot tea". The claims are false; as of July 1, 2020, Chinese media continues to report on the hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients; experts warn the purported remedies for COVID-19 cited in the misleading posts do not cure the virus and are potentially harmful to human health.

The claims were published here on Facebook on June 25, 2020. The post has been shared more than 260 times.

Screenshot of misleading post taken on June 30, 2020

The Tagalog-language claim translates to English as: “Just in case you get Infected with covid 19 corona virus’s [sic] / Just share / Read this.”

The text in the image reads: "Chinese are not taking any medicine or any vaccine for Corona virus. Every household has a Corona Virus case. They have stopped going to hospital for cure. They instead kill the virus with heat. / Very Hot Steam Inhalation from kettle 4 times a day / Hot Gargles 4 times a day / Hot tea 4 times a day / Virus dies in 4 days. / 5th Day you are Corona Negative."

Similar claims have also been shared here, here, here and here on Facebook, and here and here on Twitter. 

The claims, however, are false; as of June 30, 2020, Chinese media continues to report on COVID-19 patients hospitalised across the country.

China hospital cases

This June 30, 2020 report by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency states, in part: "Chinese health authority said Tuesday it received reports of 19 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland Monday, including eight domestically transmitted and 11 imported ones.

"By Monday, the Chinese mainland had reported a total of 1,918 imported cases. Of the cases, 1,830 had been discharged after recovery, and 88 remained hospitalized. No deaths from the imported cases had been reported."

Another Xinhua report, published a day earlier, mentioned the discharge of the first person from the latest COVID-19 infection cluster in Beijing from a hospital in the Chinese capital. 

The report states in part: “He went to a hospital on June 12 after experiencing symptoms of fever and fatigue and tested positive in a nucleic acid test. The patient had been treated in Beijing Ditan Hospital since June 13.”

Similarly, this news release from China’s National Health Commission, as well as other reports from Chinese media here and here, all made references to the hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients in China in June 2020.

Steam inhalation claim

Experts say the claim about “killing” the novel coronavirus through "steam inhalation"; “hot gargles”; and by drinking hot tea are without any scientific basis and potentially harmful to human health. AFP has previously debunked the claims here, here and here

The Philippine health department also warned against steam inhalation in this Tagalog-language graphic posted to Facebook on June 25, 2020.

“Steam inhalation... does not kill the COVID-19 virus and is not among the remedies against COVID-19,” the graphic states. “There’s a possibility that the virus attaches to the steam (aerosolization), that can lead to the spread of disease.”

“It can also cause accidents like burns and scalding.”