April 21, 2020: Posted by Mohamed Kahna
Playing on fear and gullibility in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, many charlatans are peddling magic potions, with little concern for scientific expertise. Even some heads of state have contributed to spreading this false information. Here is an overview of the most absurd “covidiots” remedies.
It is good to be a healer in the world right now, a marabout or a de-bewitcher in this coronavirus health crisis. Surfing on fear, many around the world are offering their miracle cure promising to counter COVID-19 and it has become a business that can make a lot of money.
In Benin, the self-proclaimed “great and powerful master marabout” Papa Amanveba has claimed to have discovered a herbal tea against the coronavirus, reports Le Monde. “Four people have been cured thanks to me in Italy,” he says.
To benefit from this magic potion, which can destroy the virus in seven to sixteen days, you still have to pay more than €1,500. And to shorten the delivery time, the healer thought of an alternative: “I can also make it appear next to your ear,” he suggests.
“Air purifiers, lamps, food supplements…”
In the United States, a conservative radio host close to Donald Trump, Alex Jones, known for circulating conspiracy theories, took advantage of the pandemic to promote his brand of colloidal silver toothpaste. He boasted that colloidal silver toothpaste could “kill the coronavirus at close range”.
He has been firmly called to order by the Food and Drug Administration, the American administration that supervises food and drugs: it has ordered him to withdraw these products from sale within 48 hours, reports the American media insider.
In France too, the scams are going well, and “anti-coronavirus” seems to have become the latest marketing argument in vogue. So much so that the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) has been forced to publish a warning: “To date, there is no vaccine, food, air purifiers, lamps, food supplements or essential oils … that protect against or cure coronavirus. Therefore, any presentation of products (food or not) claiming to protect or cure coronavirus is misleading commercial practice” she said.
And according to a popular belief in Tunisia, garlic is believed to have antimicrobial virtues. This plant would protect against coronavirus. The result? Garlic has become a rare commodity and its price is multiplied by three.
So much so that, faced with the scale of the phenomenon against the new coronavirus, an official statement from the WHO had to be issued. “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence, in the current outbreak, that garlic consumption protects people from the new coronavirus” the WHO writes on its website.
Nicolás Maduro’s natural antibiotic
But promoting a remedy whose effectiveness has not been scientifically proven is not just the prerogative of marabouts and crooks. Politicians have also played this dangerous game.
In addition to the heated debates over chloroquine, which has been touted by US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a tweet from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been suppressed by the social network as part of its fight against misinformation about the coronavirus. The head of state was promoting a “natural antibiotic” based on lemongrass, ginger, elderberry and black pepper.
The latter was proposed by Sirio Quintero, described as “an eminent Venezuelan scientist” by the president. “I have complete confidence in this doctor. I have nine bottles full of his beverage. I drink a cup of it every two or three hours,” Nicolás Maduro told Venezuelan television.
Another suggestion, made by the president of the Indian nationalist party Hindu Mahasabha: cow urine. “Nothing better to purify everything and kill the miasmas,” he said. For the record, the cow is a sacred animal in the country and this may explain that statement. He also suggested a more controversial use of the excrement of these same cows.
Dangerous rumors about alcohol
And while many wacky remedies are mostly harmless, such as eating more garlic or onion to supposedly boost your immune system, others are much less harmless, or even downright dangerous.
In Kenya, the governor of Nairobi has even had bottles of cognac placed in food parcels for the most vulnerable people, claiming that it was a “throat disinfectant”, according to the American media outlet CNN. The politician claimed to be relying on research by the World Health Organization, which has nevertheless clearly stated that alcohol does not protect against the coronavirus.
False information has tragic consequences. In early March, 27 people died in Iran while drinking adulterated alcohol, thinking it would protect them from the epidemic.
1.“It’s not difficult to cure”: in Africa, the “healers’” remedies against coronavirus
2.Arnaques liées au Coronavirus
3.Cow Dung, Garlic and a Prayer: The Fight Against Phony Cures for Coronavirus
4.Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters