Jakarta. A man has triggered a public backlash after claiming that he had found a cure for coronavirus and helped thousands of patients recover from the disease.
Hadi Pranoto, who claimed himself as microbiologist and professor, appeared in a video interview last Friday and said the herbal medication he created could cure a Covid-19 patient within three days. It not only kills the virus, but also triggers antibody in the persons who take it, he said.
He went further with a baseless claim that his medicine had been used by the government-run Covid-19 makeshift hospital occupying the athletes’ village in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
He also said face covering did nothing to stop people from contracting the virus.
“As long as we breathe, the virus can easily enter our respiratory system even if we wear a mask,” he said in the now-deleted video.
Despite going viral, the 40-minute video generated a lot more dislikes than likes shortly before it disappeared from YouTube. It got more than 14,000 thumb-down gestures in comparison to around 7,000 likes.
Most of the more than 5,000 comments of the video were cynical about him.
The interview was hosted by singer Erdian Aji Prihartono, better known as Anji, another controversial figure who has publicly raised doubt about the severity of coronavirus illness and said the media were exaggerating reports.
The Indonesian Doctors Association has confirmed that Hadi was not registered in their database, while several well-known microbiologists said they didn’t know him at all.
Who is Hadi?
He is the step son of Abah Surya Atmaya, a Bogor resident who drew controversy for hosting a party and inviting legendary dangdut singer Rhoma Irama on June 28.
The family event that attracted thousands of people due to the singer’s attendance invited harsh reaction from the Bogor District government for ignoring social restriction policy amid the outbreak.
Hadi refused to disclose his academic background or any scientific researches he had done as a “microbiologist” when Jakarta Globe’s sister publication Beritasatu met him on Sunday.
Instead, he demanded that the question be directed to other scientists.
“What researches have those many Indonesian professors done? You must be fair and don’t single out me,” he said.
“It’s not the time to discuss my personal background. It’s more important today to find the best solution for this nation to get rid of the pandemic.”
When told that many people had called him a fake professor, he insisted not to discuss the matter.
He said he used turmeric in his herbal medication and that “no one has died or got sick” after 20,000 people took it.
The medicine is taken orally and it also works like a vaccine by triggering the immune system, he said.
A resident has lodged a police complaint against Hadi and the interview program host for spreading hoax and misinformation about Covid-19.
Muanas Alaidi from non-governmental group Cyber Indonesia said Hadi’s claim could dangerously mislead people to believe coronavirus already has a cure and that wearing a mask is not necessary.
Besides, the herbal medicine created by Hadi has never undergone clinical tests but he claimed he had distributed it to thousands of people, Muanas said at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Monday.
Hadi, for his part, denied spreading hoaxes and said he was ready for a police questioning.
“I will come if police summon me and present all the evidence in my possession. The medicine is there and I have testimonies from people who have taken it and been cured,” he said.
“No one gets sick after consuming my herbal medicine, and for sure no one dies either,” he added.
The government-sponsored Covid-19 Research and Innovation Consortium cautioned the public against taking Hadi’s medicine, citing a lack of clinical test and certification by relevant agencies.
"I call on the public to be cautious over the purported herbal medicine for Covid-19,” consortium head Ali Ghufron said in a statement.
Ali, a senior official with the Research and Technology Ministry, said Hadi is not a certified medical researcher while questioning his claim that the medicine has been used by the makeshift Covid-19 hospital.
“The Research and Technology Ministry has never provided any support for clinical test of Bio Nuswa herbal medicine, which Hadi Pranoto claimed have been distributed to patients in the makeshift hospital in Athletes’ Village. Any clinical test must get approval from the Drug and Food Control Agency and ethical clearance from the Ethic Committee,” he said.