Indonesia chews out minister for ‘anti-virus’ eucalyptus necklace claim

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In a screenshot from a clip on the Indonesian Agriculture Ministry's YouTube channel, Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo is seen wearing the "antivirus" necklace in the vlog posted on June 6, 2020.
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Indonesia's agriculture ministry said they are developing the eucalyptus necklace, inhaler, and roll-ons which can "inhibit the replication of coronavirus".
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Updated 09 July 2020

Indonesia chews out minister for ‘anti-virus’ eucalyptus necklace claim

  • Limpo claims innovation can ‘kill 80 percent germs’ if worn for 30 minutes

Jakarta: Indonesian scientists on Wednesday debunked claims by agriculture minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo last week that a necklace made from eucalyptus can prevent the transmission of coronavirus. There were concerns that such claims could be highly misleading in a country struggling with a high COVID-19 fatality rate.

Berry Juliandi, a biologist from Bogor Agricultural University and a member of Indonesia Young Scientists Forum, told Arab News on Wednesday that there could be a miscommunication between Limpo and his staff at the ministry’s health research and development agency, which has been conducting the research since the COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in March this year.

“This miscommunication, however, is dangerous and unjustifiable, with such claims coming from a cabinet minister, especially since this is about public health and people’s lives,” Juliandi said.

He added that this could mislead the public into believing that they can avoid contracting the virus by wearing the lanyard which has an “anti-coronavirus” label inscribed on top of a photo of a eucalyptus leaf, on a perforated tag with the plant’s essence on it, which the wearer can use to inhale the aroma from.

Limpo first made the claims during a press conference on Friday when he told journalists that the lanyard he was wearing contained an “antivirus” element made from the eucalyptus plant which could “kill” 80 percent of the virus if worn for 30 minutes.

He said it had been developed by the agriculture ministry, along with roll-ons and a mini-inhaler, and would be mass-produced in August.

Indonesia's agriculture ministry said they are developing the eucalyptus necklace, inhaler, and roll-ons which can "inhibit the replication of coronavirus".

However, on Monday, the head of the ministry’s research and development agency, Fadjry Djufry, withdrew Limpo’s claim following intense public mockery of the product over the weekend.

“We do not claim that it can kill COVID-19 as we did not test it on SARS-CoV-2, but we tested it on other coronavirus models such as the alpha, beta, or gamma coronaviruses,” Djufry said.

Limpo was seen wearing the necklace during a hearing with lawmakers on Tuesday, but stopped short of responding to journalists’ questions about the product.

Acknowledging the fact that the eucalyptus products are neither an oral medicine nor a vaccine for COVID-19 –the National Agency for Drug and Food Control, where the products are registered for a patent, classifies them as herbal products – Djufry said that early research suggested that its essence could be developed as a potential remedy to inhibit the coronavirus.

"However, to say that the products can curb the virus from replicating in the respiratory tract is still a misleading claim since it has not undergone any clinical trials," Juliandi said, before appreciating the ministry scientists’ efforts to mitigate the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 68,079 cases with 3,359 fatalities.

The new confirmed cases have consistently numbered more than 1,000 per day since mid-June. At the same time, the East Java province, the second-most populated province in Indonesia, has emerged as the new COVID-19 center, taking over the capital Jakarta.

“Our national fatality rate stands at 5 percent. This is higher than the global average of 4.72 percent,” a spokesman for the COVID-19 national task force, Achmad Yurianto, said on Sunday.


Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled

Updated 26 November 2020

Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen broke down on Thursday when visiting a mink farmer who lost his herd following the government’s order this month to cull all 17 million mink in the country to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Frederiksen has faced opposition calls to resign and a vote of no confidence in parliament after an order by the government in early November, which it later admitted was illegal, to cull the country’s entire mink population.
The order was given after authorities found COVID-19 outbreaks at hundreds of mink farms, including a new strain of the virus, suspected of being able to compromise the efficacy of vaccines.
“We have two generations of really skilled mink farmers, father and son, who in a very, very short time have had their life’s work shattered,” Frederiksen told reporters after a meeting with a mink farmer and his son at their farm near Kolding in Western Denmark.
“It has been emotional for them, and... Sorry. It has for me too,” Frederiksen said with a wavering voice, pausing for breath in between words.
The move to cull Denmark’s entire mink population, one of the world’s biggest and highly valued for the quality of its fur, has left the government reeling after it admitted it did not have the legal basis to order the culling of healthy mink.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks since the order was given on Nov. 4, the Minister of Agriculture, Mogens Jensen, stepped down last week after an internal investigation revealed a flawed political process.
Denmark has proposed a ban on all mink breeding in the country until 2022. Tage Pedersen, head of the Danish mink breeders’ association, said this month the industry, which employs around 6,000 people and exports fur pelts worth $800 million annually, is finished.
Denmark’s opposition says the cull of healthy mink should not have been initiated before compensation plans were in place for the owners and workers at some 1,100 mink farms.