Trump COVID-19
Screengrab of video recording of Trump's press conference on April 23 Image Credit: YouTube

Washington: The coronavirus doesn't last as long on door handles and other nonporous surfaces when it's exposed to sunlight, higher temperatures and humidity, according to a US government study.

"The virus is dying at a much more rapid pace" from exposure to humidity or heat, Bill Bryan, an undersecretary at the Homeland Security Department, said at a White House news conference on Thursday.

The statements that went viral from the conference, however, were US President Donald Trump's doubts about methods to kill the virus. Following Bryan's presentation, he asked a series of questions about possible ways to tackl the rapidly spreading virus.

"Suppose we hit the body with a tremendous ultraviolet or just very powerful light," Trump said, following Bryan's presentation. "I think that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it."

Researchers could also bring "the light inside the body" Trump said, "either through the skin or in some other way."

The World Health Organization has warned against using UV lamps to sterilise any part of the body, saying it can cause skin irritation.

Disinfection 'inside' the body

Bryan also said that research had shown bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids in five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly. Trump suggested there would be more testing there, too.

"The disinfectant knocks it out in a minute. One minute," he said. "Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside?" He said it would be "almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs."

Later media reported that Bryan clarified that that wasn't possible and said, "We don't do that within that lab, at our labs."

However, Trump replied: "maybe it works, maybe it doesn't work."

Twitter trends

Following the incident, people started sharing the video of the conference with the hashtag #TidePodPresident in reference to the dangerous social media challenge that went viral in 2018. The challenge involved teens putting detergent pods from Tide called Tide Pods in their mouth and gagging on them before challenging others to do the same - all on video. The pods are deadly if ingested.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned Americans to be careful with cleaning products in their rush to use cleaners and disinfectants, which have been snapped up from store shelves and are still hard to find at many retailers.

Poisonings related to cleaners and disinfectants rose significantly in March, according to the CDC. In one case, a woman was sent to the hospital after filling her sink with bleach solution, vinegar and hot water to soak her vegetables.

- Inputs from Bloomberg