Coronavirus

From French Cheese To Cow Urine, A Roundup Of Fake COVID-19 Remedies

Roquefort may be delicious, but it doesn't cure coronavirus
Roquefort may be delicious, but it doesn't cure coronavirus

As the coronavirus has spread across the world, so too have an array of fake remedies and cures that promise to protect people. Social media have been flooded with claims about foods, products and other assorted concoctions that can allegedly cure or prevent the virus. Up to the point that the World Health Organization had to issue warnings about such myths. Needless to say, they vary by location, culture and tradition — but no matter where you live, don't follow these faux cures at home:

  • French cheese: A Facebook post that was widely shared suggested that "Penicillium Roqueforti", the mold used to make Roquefort, the French blue cheese, was used by professor Didier Raoult in the creation of chloroquine and tested by the French physician in the fight against coronavirus, Le Monde reports. The author of the post himself admitted later on that his post was a "positive ‘fake news'" to add a "touch of humor in this difficult time" as well as to promote Roquefort.

Bananas to fight the virus? — Screenshot

  • Bananas: A video entitled "A banana a day keeps the coronavirus away" circulated online, which appeared to be a report promoting bananas as a way to improve the immune system thanks to fruit's concentration of vitamin B6. The video turned out to be a mix of two reports from an Australian television channel and The Wall Street Journal which didn't mention bananas at all.

  • Cow urine: In India, a group of Hindu activists organized a "cow urine drinking party" in an attempt to ward off the virus, The Wire reports. Hindus consider the cow sacred and some believe that the animal's urine, called "Gomutra", has medicinal properties.

  • Garlic: It may be of the most mentioned fake health tips online and despite the fact that there is no evidence that eating raw garlic protects people from the virus, the myth seems to endure. The The South China Morning Post reported the case of a woman who, after eating around 1.5 kilograms of garlic over two weeks, needed hospital treatment as her throat was inflamed to the point she could no longer speak.

  • Vodka to herbal remedy: While Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko have been encouraging its citizens to drink vodka, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has launched "Covid-Organics', a herbal tea to cure the virus. According to RFI, the decoction will be sold in supermarkets and pharmacies and some students who were going back to school will be required to take it.


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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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