On April 20, the president calls a press conference to announce a breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. It’s a new use for an old malaria treatment, he says, one that is seeing miraculous results among the country’s most ill patients. It’s so safe that even schoolchildren could take it. In fact, he urges them to do so daily, as a preventative. He admits that he, too, is taking the medicine.
No, this is not the President of the United States touting an unproven remedy for a virus that has infected nearly 5 million people worldwide. It is Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina, who is just as willing to use the presidential platform to promote a hypothetical treatment as is his American counterpart. To prove the safety of his new discovery, he picks up a bottle placed prominently on the podium and takes a swig of the amber liquid. “This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” he avows. “Tests have been carried out—two people have now been cured by this treatment.”
Aides pass bottles of the herbal remedy, labelled “Covid-Organics,” to the assembled diplomats, ministers and journalists. They sip appreciatively, then break into applause as the president of this island nation announces that the first African cure for coronavirus, based on traditional African medicine, will be distributed countrywide, and, eventually across the continent. According to the World Health Organization, there are no medicines that have been shown to prevent or cure COVID-19. That hasn’t stopped people—some of them presidents—from grasping at any potential treatment that might provide a way out of the devastating lockdowns that are collapsing national economies, or stave off the threat of mounting death tolls. Read more.