A medical staff member (R-in booth) takes a nasal swab from a visitor as part of a test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a virus testing centre in Seoul on January 26, 2022. ( AFP / Jung Yeon-je)

False claim recirculates online that 'baking soda can cure Covid-19'

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Multiple social media posts circulating in South Korea claim baking soda is the "cheapest and safest cure" for Covid-19. The claim circulated online shortly after South Korea recorded its first case of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant, which prompted a new wave of infections. But health experts say there is no evidence that baking soda can cure Covid-19. AFP previously debunked a similar claim after it circulated in the Philippines. 

The claim was shared here on South Korean social media platform Naver Blog on December 31, 2021.

Screenshot of the misleading Naver Blog post, captured on January 28, 2022. ( AFP)

The Korean-language claim translates in part as: "Baking soda remedy - It has been proven that sodium bicarbonate is the cheapest and safest cure for Covid-19."

It continues: "There was a study that surprised all the doctors. Mix 3g of sodium bicarbonate with 100ml of water.

"Apply this water to Covid-19 patients, and the result was surprising. These patients got better.

"But you know what the bad news is? There is a strong force that monitors and censors useful medical information like this."

Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound that is commonly known as baking soda or soda bicarbonate.

An identical claim has been shared on Naver Blog, Facebook and South Korean online forum Daum Cafe

The claim circulated online after South Korea recorded its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant on December 1, 2021. 

The country has since endured a new surge in infections. Daily cases reached 17,000 -- another record high -- South Korean news agency Yonhap reported here on January 31, 2022.

However, the claim is false. Consuming baking soda cannot prevent or cure Covid-19, health experts say.

"Baking soda is used for some medicinal treatments but has not been proven to be a cure for Covid-19. Using baking soda also does not prevent Covid-19," according to health experts at the Health Desk of Meedan, a global technology non-profit organisation. 

"This is a false claim that is not backed by any clinical trials so far".

They said vaccines were still the best protection against coronavirus infection.

"Current data suggests that no home remedy can replace or compare with the benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19," they said.

AFP previously debunked a similar claim circulating in the Philippines that drinking a remedy of hot water, lemon and baking soda could cure Covid-19. 

At that time, Olosmira Correa, an assistant professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology at the University of Chile, told AFP there was "no scientific basis" for the claim.

She said: "It is not a dangerous mixture, but it does not have an effect on COVID-19 disease, it does not improve symptoms or help in any way."

Other false cures for Covid-19 have previously been shared by South Korean social media users, including drinking boiled garlic or ginger water.