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.


Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

Updated 16 min 39 sec ago

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

  • Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops downed 2 Azerbaijani helicopters and 3 drones in response to an attack
  • Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it launched a military operation along the “contact line”

YEREVAN: Armenia said early on Sunday that neighboring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 0410 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, in turn, said it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.

Meanwhile, Turkey vowed complete support for Baku and called on Armenia to give up its “aggression.”
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkey is a key ally of Baku with close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan due to a dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Armenia says is a genocide.
“The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia’s aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire,” Akar said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly” condemned the clashes and said Armenia “once again violated international law and (has) shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.”
He called on the international community to “say stop to this dangerous provocation” in a tweet.
“Azerbaijan is not alone. It has Turkey's full support,” Kalin added.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement went further, promising: “However Azerbaijan wants, we will stand by Azerbaijan in that manner.”
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.