Doing the busting is Sushil Koirala, a Bangkok-based public health expert and one of the authors of the popular change.org petition urging the Nepali government to massively expand Covid-19 testing.
Myth 1: There’s no virus in Nepal. The government is making up the positive cases to extend the lockdown and get donations from international agencies.
Fact: As viruses are very small, they are difficult to see. The only way to know for sure is to find an infected person and test them for a virus. Our government may certainly be faking many things, but it’s unlikely that a virus that has infected over six million people around the world and taken the life of almost half a million can be faked.
Nepal has plenty of reasons to seek foreign aid but rest assured, we have neither the skill nor the manpower to create such a massive hoax.
Myth 2: Nepalis are immune to the virus because of what they eat: ginger, garlic, turmeric, you name it.
Fact: Nepal happens to be among only a handful of countries that has seen a few deaths among young adults and children—even with a small number of its positive cases. Garlic, ginger and turmeric are good for health (they taste good too) and may boost your immunity, too, but the ‘garlic immunity’ is not known to protect anyone from the Covid-19 virus. If that were the case, no one in China would have gotten the virus. They love garlic and ginger there.
No one knows why the virus makes someone very sick while nothing happens to someone else it infects, and overall health does not seem to make a difference on the severity of symptoms. Nepal is at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 cases as people’s overall health here is poorer compared to the health of the people of more developed countries.
Myth 3: As the Covid-19 death rate in Nepal is low, not many Nepalis will from it.
Fact: People don’t die as soon as they get the infection; it generally takes time for someone to acquire the virus and then die from it. Up to now, most infections in Nepal have been seen in labor migrants, who tend to be young males. As you probably know, young people are at lesser risk of dying from Covid-19. So we don’t see high death numbers. Globally, the virus seems to infect younger people (as they move around a lot more) and then slowly moves to the elderly, who are most affected by it. I think we are just not there yet. The young-to-old is a natural progression of this pandemic in other countries.
Myth 4: The climate of Nepal is unsuitable for the virus.
Fact: This virus is now circulating in five continents and has affected 182 countries. Some are spreading faster than others but it is now clear that it can spreads in all kinds of climates.
Myth 5: The virus strain we have is weak.
Fact: As the virus spreads, it mutates. As viruses replicate rather than reproduce, these imperfections are natural too. There are 15 known strains of the Covid-19 virus circulating in the world. Certain differences have been observed in different parts of the world but there is no evidence that the strain in Nepal is weak. As even young adults and children are dying, it could well be more potent. It’s too early to say. Plus, there has been no virus culture in Nepal, so this is just an untested assumption.
Last word: In my view, the only fact that we all need to believe in is that the virus is real, and is infecting millions. Hundreds of thousands are dying. And there is as yet no medication to cure it and no vaccine to ward it off. No one knows if one population has more immunity than others.
Eating garlic can definitely help you get stronger but it won’t protect you from the virus. The only proven prevention is maintaining at least 6-ft distance from people you don’t live with, washing hands regularly, wearing masks, and seeking test and help if you have fever, difficult breathing, persistent cough, and sudden loss of sense of taste and smell.