‘I was referring to clinical trials’: DJ Loonyo apologizes after controversial claims on COVID-19 mass testing

June 3, 2020 - 2:35 PM
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DJ Loonyo
Internet personality Rhemuel Lunio or "DJ Loonyo" poses in this picture uploaded on his Instagram on Feb. 9, 2020. (Photo from Rhemuel Lunio via Instragram)

Internet dancing sensation Rhemuel Lunio or “DJ Loonyo” on Wednesday issued an apology after he spouted false claims in a viral interview where he talked about mass testing, vaccines and other terms related to the coronavirus disease.

In the spliced five-minute video that went viral, the TikTok personality talked to an individual with the pseudonym “Mr. Mainit” and wrongly equated the term mass testing with drug and vaccine trials for COVID-19.

Lunio claimed that mass testing shouldn’t be needed if the vaccine to be produced for the viral disease is guaranteed to be effective.

“My question is, bakit ka magma-mass testing if ever sasabihin mo itong vaccine na ito is 100% na gagana? Bakit mo ima-mass testing? Right? So ibig sabihin, ‘yung magma-mass testing, kawawa ‘yun,” Lunio said.

“Kung sino ‘yung kasama nun sa mass testing na ‘yun, good luck kung anong klaseng reaction ‘yung gagawin ng vaccine sa katawan mo kung kabilang ka doon sa ima-mass testing,” he added.

Lunio also managed to prevent “Mr. Mainit” from being tested for COVID-19 when the latter told him that there would be a mass testing in their dance studio since they would shoot for a “commercial.”

The online personality expounded on his claims and told Mr. Mainit that mass testing was supposedly equivalent to a “trial-and-error” to see if a drug would be effective against COVID-19.

“I don’t know kung ano ang gagamitin nila sa mass testing pero these, kung ano mang ipapainom nila, kung ano mang ipapagawa nila, it’s a trial-and-error. That’s why it’s mass testing. Kaya kawawa ‘yung mag-i-intake, kawawa ‘yung mag-u-undergo noon kasi its’ not 100% proven,” Lunio said.

He also claimed that the terms “mass testing, rapid testing, COVID-19 testing” are the same, which supposedly refers to drug trials.

Lunio also speculated that instruments used for swab testing could already be infected or be injected with strains of the viral disease.

“They’re just creating something para i-prove na kailangan na magka-vaccine. Kung baga, planado,” he claimed.

‘Educate yourself’ 

Lunio’s remarks baffled Filipinos who urged him to do a thorough research of a topic before managing to talk about it on his platform.

Former fitness instructor Roi De Rueda accused Lunio of “spreading misinformation” about mass testing and told him to utilize Google before talking about the topic.

This guy is spreading misinformation about #MASSTESTING! Libre google, gamitin mo, magresearch ka muna bago ka magsayaw.

Posted by Roi De Rueda on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

 

Film director Kip Oebanda similarly called Lunio out and said that he personally knew people who died of COVID-19.

“I can’t let the BS conspiracy theory of DJ Loonyo pass. Do you think these people are allowing themselves to die for a vaccine conspiracy?” he asked.

Actor Alexander Diaz also urged Lunio, who he acknowledged of having a wide following, to take the initiative to “educate” himself before going to social media and talk to the public.

 

A Twitter user said that the public should use it as an “opportunity” to be educated about the real definition of mass testing and other terms Lunio had mentioned in the video.

Mass testing 101

Mass testing is the term used to refer to qualified people who needed to get tested for COVID-19 infection through a swab test or a blood sample test.

Mass testing, despite Malacañang’s previous qualms against its usage, means testing people on a massive scale under an objective and not every Filipino in the country.

Dr. Gene Nisperos, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine, argued that mass testing applies to an approach needed to properly identify COVID-19 carries: Through identification, containment and isolation of cases.

“For proponents of ‘mass testing,’ those who should be tested at the start of the campaign were also very clear: Patients with COVID-19 symptoms (all Persons Under Investigation/PUIs), frontline health workers, and members of communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases,” he said.

“Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) were included as the campaign was further polished later,” Nisperos added.

Currently, the Department of Health is prioritizing the testing of symptomatic individuals, all of the close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 patient and those who tested positive of the rapid antibody test.

Testing is done in two types—the swab test for the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing and the blood sample test for the rapid antibody testing.

RT-PCR testing is more accurate since it directly looks for genetic evidence of the virus in a sample taken from the nose and the throat since COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease.

The rapid antibody testing looks for traces of antibodies in the blood ideally developed by the immune system when it fought the virus. It is less accurate since the body cannot produce antibodies immediately.

All about trials 

Meanwhile, clinical trials only involve qualified patients who have given their full consent to be administered with certain drugs eyed as potential treatment for COVID-19.

Following the World Health Organization‘s qualifications for the COVID-19 solidarity trial, patients who are at least 18-years-old, and is a confirmed or a probable COVID-19 case can participate under the full guidance and authority of medical professionals.

Before humans are subjected for clinical trials, preclinical studies involving laboratory and animal experiments are conducted to determine the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.

‘I was referring to clinical trials’

In a lengthy apology posted on Facebook, Lunio clarified that he was referring to clinical trials.

“First off, I apologize for the wrong use of terminology in that particular instance. My point is not particularly about the “COVID mass testing”; I was actually referring to “CLINICAL trials,” the choreographer said.

“I understand that the use of terminology is critical, so I apologize for any confusion caused,” he added.

Lunio thanked his critics for calling him out.

“Maraming Salamat po sa inyong pagpuna. Sana po ay mabuksan lang din ang inyong isipan,” Lunio said.

“Maaring we will remain in disagreement on certain points, but that doesn’t mean we cannot have a decent conversation,” he concluded.

‘We are no experts’

The internet personality stressed that they issued a disclaimer that they are no experts and said it is for this reason that they want his viewers “to be vigilant and see different sides of the picture.”

He also called on his bashers to watch the full video as he said they also discussed “business over integrity.”

“Yes, we are definitely not experts, and we mentioned a lot of disclaimers during the live video but we are exercising our right to ask questions, and share thoughts with those who agree or disagree,” Lunio said.

The DJ-choreographer said he is aware of the influence of his platform and stressed that he did not mean to spread misinformation.

“I know that I have been blessed with a platform kung saan may kaunting level din of influence. We do not mean to spread misinformation, but rather encourage you to form an open-mindedness para hindi po kayo magpanic, para alam niyo bakit kayo dapat mag-mask, bakit dapat stay at hope at hindi para sumunod lang nang di naiintindihan ang reasons why or why not,” he said.

Lunio, who became famous for his TikTok dance videos, has almost 3.9 million followers on Facebook and 1.2 million Facebook subscribers.