A student wearing a facemask washes his hands inside their school after it was reopened in Colombo on July 6, 2020. (AFP / Lakruwan Wanniarachchi)

New hoax shared in Sri Lanka suggests WHO approved water, salt and vinegar remedy for coronavirus

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Multiple posts shared repeatedly on Instagram and Facebook in Sri Lanka claim that drinking lots of water or gargling warm water mixed with salt and vinegar can prevent novel coronavirus infection. The claim was shared alongside an image that shows a World Health Organization (WHO) logo. The claim is false; no international health body, including the WHO, has issued such guidance about Covid-19. 

The claim was published here on Instagram on October 8, 2020. It has since been deleted. 

Screenshot of Instagram post published on October 8, 2020

The image shows a logo for the WHO alongside a stock photo of two scientists. 

The Sinhala-language text overlay on the image translates to English as: “The coronavirus remains in your throat for about four days before it infects your lungs. Therefore, drink plenty of water and gargle it in the throat with salt mixed with warm water or vinegar. 

“Share this message as much as possible and help save many lives. It is your duty and responsibility to safeguard yourself, your home, your city and your country. ”

A similar claim was also shared here, here, here, here, here and here on Facebook.

The claim is false.

In response to the claim, a spokesperson for Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau told AFP the claim had not originated from “verified sources”.

During a phone conversation with AFP on October 9, 2020, the spokesperson said: “Developing habits such as drinking water is good for one’s health. However, practicing it with the belief it protects from Covid-19 infection is dangerous as there is no scientific basis behind the claim and most importantly, there is no cure for the novel coronavirus yet. 

“Such Information only creates a false sense of protection which can divert the public from practicing measures that can actually lower the risk of Covid-19 infections - following the national health and safety guidelines.” 

The WHO's list of official recommendations for preventing the spread of Covid-19 does not include gargling water as an effective treatment for COVID-19.

“While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease,” reads WHO’s website.

There is also no evidence to support the claim that the coronavirus “remains in the throat for four days” before reaching the lungs.

The WHO states the Covid-19 incubation period, which is the time between catching the virus and showing symptoms of the disease, ranges from one to 14 days, but is most commonly about five days.

AFP has previously debunked similar misleading claims; including a hoax that gargling warm water with salt or vinegar can “kill Covid-19” here; and a misleading claim that doctors have advised drinking water every 15 minutes can "kill" the virus here.