Armed with the internet, Panelo concluded that eating bananas and gargling can prevent COVID-19. Health experts disagree.

March 16, 2020 - 8:29 PM
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Salvador Panelo
Salvador Panelo, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson and legal counsel (Interaksyon file photo)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo falsely claimed that eating bananas and gargling could help prevent the deadly novel coronavirus strain despite these not being verified by health organizations.

This came after he announced that President Rodrigo Duterte decided to expand the community quarantine to the whole Luzon on March 16.

Based on screenshots of the announcement shared by on-the-ground reporters on social media, the enhanced community quarantine included suspension of public transportation systems and strict home confinement. No further details were yet revealed.

During the press briefing on this, Panelo made two questionable recommendations that the public should do to protect themselves against the new pathogen and prevent transmissions of it.

He first claimed that he read the effectivity of eating bananas somewhere on the internet.

“I read a few things about how to destroy or contain the virus. You know, even without me knowing it, I’ve been fond of bananas. Then, I saw on the internet, that bananas are a good way to fight [viruses]. So here I am, eating bananas every day,” he said.

He then went on and asserted his habit of gargling salt water that helped prevent further transmissions.

“It has been my habit to gargle salt water. Whenever I feel a bit of colds, I do it,” Panelo said.

For this, “Panelo” made it to the list of trending topics on local Twitter with almost 18,000 tweets, as of posting. His press conference video has also been shared by online users.

Eric Tayag of the health department’s Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service, also a former spokesperson of the Department of Health, responded to this on Twitter with: “What?”

Another doctor, Willie Ong, a former senatorial bet, also advised his followers against too much banana consumption, noting that rumors of the fruit being the cure for the deadly disease are false.

“Ang saging ay masustansyang prutas. Pero hindi pang-gamot ang saging sa COVID-19. Mali po! Fake news ang kumalat na post tungkol sa saging at COVID-19,” Ong said on Facebook.

“Kung gusto kumain ng saging, hanggang dalawang piraso lang bawat araw. Ingat sa may almoranas at kidney problem. Baka ma-constipated kayo. Sa may kidney problem at mataas creatinine, Bawal din ang sobrang saging. God bless,” he added.

HINDI SOLUSYON ang SAGING sa COVID: Fake News at Fake Video ang nakita nyo ! Karamihan ng gulay at prutas ay…

Posted by Doc Willie Ong on Sunday, March 15, 2020

ABS-CBN reporter Karen Davila similarly said that Filipinos should trust only health experts from now on.

“Trust only official updates from health experts,” she tweeted.

What health organizations are saying about alleged ‘cures’

There is no evidence that gargling salt water can kill the virus, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo previously said.

“I don’t think there is any evidence that it will kill a virus. I think this is a home remedy that has been followed for many, many generations and I don’t think there’s going to be any harm in doing it,” Domingo said.

In its “Myth Busters” page, the World Health Organization that there is no specific medicine that could prevent or treat the new strain.

“To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV),” it said.

The organization instead advised that infected individuals should receive appropriate health care.

“However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care,” the WHO added.