Madhya Pradesh's Minister of Tourism & Culture Usha Thakur, who has been making headlines for her controversial comments on COVID-19, said people should perform 'yagna chikitsa' (ceremonial fire ritual) to ward off the third wave.

She mentioned that the ritual is necessary to purify the environment and will stop the third wave of COVID-19 from attacking India. "We appeal to all to perform yagna and offer aahuti (oblation) and purify the environment… The third wave of COVID-19 will not be able to touch our country," she said.

Factchecker spoke to doctors and scientists who said that it's wrong and such statements by public figures just ridicule the scientific consensus in a grave situation like the pandemic.

"We are living in a time when every act needs to be driven by scientific consensus. So, such kinds of statements, even if religious, are wrong," said Meesaraganda Rohith, a doctor from Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur.

Dr Mir Mushtaq, spokesperson of Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir and Deputy Medical Superintendent, Pulwama district hospital, echoed his view when he told FactChecker, "We cannot belittle science and must respect research. So, to assume that worshipping God can only evade COVID is a strange statement. Everyone needs God's blessings and good wishes but thinking that this can be the cure is a flawed assumption and we should not buy into such opinions and get ourselves into trouble."

Dr Mushtaq also suggested what really needs to be done to prepare for the third wave. "We need to augment oxygen generation facilities, ventilation capacity, expand the number of oxygen beds in hospitals and ramp up health care infrastructure in order to be prepared for the third wave of the pandemic regardless of any other reservations," he added.

A paper published in the Postgraduate Research Journal elaborated on the need of behavioral changes around COVID-19. It highlighted the need to build awareness in a way that the Indian society starts appreciating and voluntarily following social distancing.

"As long as there is no scientific proof, we cannot approve anything. Moreover, at present temples, mosques and churches are closed and it is the hospitals that are functioning round the clock. So, it is advisable to believe in science which will save lives," said Dr. Jayadheer Babu, a critical care specialist, Guntur General Hospital and state president of Andhra Pradesh Government Doctors' Associate.

"The only ways to prevent the third wave is complete vaccination of target groups and self and community containment to be followed strictly," added Dr Babu.

Factchecker called Thakur's office for a comment but did not receive any response till the time the article was published.

This is not the first time that Thakur has made headlines owing to controversial statements.

On March 7, at a function in Indore Press Club, Thakur had said, "A mixture of ghee and rice added to the cow dung cake if used in havans (fire rituals) at the time of sunrise and sunset, can keep home sanitised for 12 hours." Then, on April 9, 2021, she was seen performing a 'puja' without a mask at the Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar's idol in the campus of Indore airport. Later that month, the minister inspected the Bagli COVID care centre in Madhya Pradesh's Dewas district, where she was an in-charge, without wearing a mask.