News Coronavirus Quack coronavirus ‘cure’ felling Iranians in their hundreds

Quack coronavirus ‘cure’ felling Iranians in their hundreds

Health officials check a woman's temperature in Tehran, where coronavirus is raging. Photo: AP
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Iranian health workers are begging the public to stop drinking industrial alcohol in the mistaken belief that it can cure coronavirus.

A five-year-old boy, now blind after his parents gave him toxic methanol, is just one of hundreds of victims of an epidemic inside the pandemic now gripping Iran.

Iranian media has reported nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 made ill by ingesting methanol across the Islamic Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on bootleggers.

An Iranian doctor helping the country’s Health Ministry says the problem was even greater, giving a death toll of around 480 with close to 3000 people sick.

The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.

Iran, home to 80 million people, has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Social media’s furphy

“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here,” said Dr. Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to Iran’s Health Ministry.

“We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.”

In messages forwarded again and again on Iranian social media, accounts falsely suggested a British school teacher and others cured themselves of the coronavirus with whiskey and honey. Mixed with messages about the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, some wrongly believed drinking high-proof alcohol would kill the virus in their bodies.

The Islamic republic has reported over 29,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,200 deaths from the virus, the highest toll of any country in the Middle East. International experts also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases.

Other Muslim nations that ban their citizens from drinking also see such methanol poisoning, and in Buddhist Cambodia, police seized 4,200 litres of methanol from a man who unwittingly planned to make toxic hand sanitiser.

-AAP