The Agriculture Ministry of Indonesia announced this weekend the creation of an “antivirus necklace” made of eucalyptus that could allegedly kill the Chinese coronavirus, later walking back its properties, but not before the nation’s health minister claimed it could boost the wearer’s “psychological mentality.”
Indonesia has documented over 66,000 cases of Chinese coronavirus and 3,309 deaths since the pandemic erupted in Wuhan, central China, late last year. Its government has struggled to successfully enact social distancing measures and on occasion elicited embarrassment, such as when health officials confused the medical terms “Sars-CoV-2” and “COVID-19” World Health Organization (W.H.O.) branding for the Chinese coronavirus and the disease that it causes, respectively.
The Indonesian Agriculture Ministry baffled the nation on Friday with the announcement that its Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangtan) had invented a necklace that kills the Chinese coronavirus.
“It was [developed] by Balitbangtan. From 700 species of eucalyptus, our lab test results showed that one kind could kill the coronavirus. We are certain,” Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said, according to the Jakarta Post. The newspaper noted that Syahrul insisted that 15 minutes of wearing the necklace could kill “42 percent of the coronavirus.”
“We have tried it. If we [use it] for 30 minutes, it can kill 80 percent [of the coronavirus]. We have also produced a roll-on [product]. If we ever get cut by a knife, the wounds can be healed by applying the product,” the Post quoted him as saying.
The head of the Balitbangtan, which allegedly developed the necklace, also alleged that the necklace helped those already infected with the Chinese coronavirus breathe better as they recovered. Eucalyptus has traditionally been used to treat colds, and some have suggested that the essential oil of the plant could help treat lung inflammation caused by the coronavirus.
Indonesia’s Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto weighed in on Monday, refusing to endorse the medical properties of the necklace. Instead, Terawan said that the necklace could help reduce the stress of the wearer, which may in turn give that person’s immune system a boost – a far different argument for the necklace than the Agricultural Ministry claim that eucalyptus kills the virus.
“Regarding the necklace, I haven’t thoroughly studied it,” the Asian outlet Coconuts quoted the health minister as saying. “But what is the most important is if believing in [the necklace] raises one’s psychological mentality, then one’s immune system is raised too … If there are a lot of worries, then one’s immune system is compromised, so it’s important to have a healthy immune system in facing [the Chinese coronavirus].”
While the minister of agriculture himself insisted that the eucalyptus necklace could “kill the coronavirus,” the head of research in the ministry denied that anyone had made any “antivirus claim” at any time regarding the necklace.
“There is no antivirus claim there because [the National Agency for Drug and Food Control (BPOM)] classifies them as herbal products,” Agriculture Ministry Research and Development Department head Fadjry Djufry asserted, claiming that the necklace is an aromatherapy “health accessory” and not a medication. In the same statement, Fadjry admitted that they had referred to the necklace as an “antivirus,” but claimed it was meant unofficially, “to lift the spirits of our researchers.”
“Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo had previously claimed that the eucalyptus products had been tested on influenza as well as beta and gamma coronaviruses and was able to kill 80 to 100 percent of the viruses,” the Jakarta Post added.
Indonesia has endured significant public struggles with its coronavirus response. Last month, in another embarrassing incident, a man received a positive pregnancy test while waiting for the results of his coronavirus lab test.
“I don’t think it is important to report how” the man ended up being told he was pregnant, the head of the coronavirus task force in charge of the man’s test told reporters.
In February, about a month after the World Health Organization had branded the Chinese coronavirus “SARS-CoV-2” to help the Communist Party avoid association with the pandemic it helped create, Indonesian officials issued a bizarre statement affirming that they had not documented the virus’s presence in the country because they had only identified “SARS-CoV-2” and not “COVID-19,” which is technically the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. At the time, Health Ministry disease control official Achmad Yurianto was answering questions regarding a Japanese national identified as a positive coronavirus patient, but insisted that he was “not a case of COVID-19.”
“What we have now is a COVID-19 epidemic. There are experts saying that COVID-19 is different from SARS CoV-2, and that the differences reach 70 percent,” he said, which is not accurate.
Indonesia is preparing to reopen parts of Bali, an island with a robust hospitality and tourism industry, this month. Authorities stated that restaurants on the island would open on Thursday to local residents and, assuming a positive outcome, Bali would begin accepting domestic tourists at the end of July. Bali is scheduled to reopen to international tourists in September.