“Hii story ya dawa ya corona imetoka wapi. Chemsha strong tea bila sukari before the sun rises. You will thank me later,” the post reads. The Kiswahili translates as: “Where’s the story about a drug for coronavirus? Drink black tea without sugar before the sun rises.”
The claim made it to Kenya’s mainstream media after journalist Sigomba Ramadhan Omar wrote in the Standard newspaper that he was woken at dawn by his mother to drink sugarless black tea.
“I have received a call from your grandfather that a child has uttered seven words at birth in Pokomo, Tana River,” Omar said his mother told him. “The seven words were ‘Dawa ya corona ni chai ya rangi’.” This loosely translates to “the cure for coronavirus is black tea”.
Another news story broadcast on 30 March 2020 on NTV, a mainstream Kenyan TV channel, showed people saying they were woken by viral messages telling them to drink black tea.
According to the rumours, the child died shortly after he uttered the “cure”. And it’s made people across Kenya wake up early for this new treatment.
But does drinking unsweetened black tea at dawn cure Covid-19?
Tea doesn’t cure coronavirus
In his Standard column, Omar pointed out the holes in the story. Different messages claimed the baby was from different towns in the region, and the parents were unnamed.
In the comments section to the Facebook post, users argued about where the baby was born.
And babies can’t talk within a few hours of birth, as shown in this scientific paper.
“Tea cannot protect one from infection with Covid-19,” Dr Moses Masika, a virologist at the University of Nairobi, told Africa Check.
“The root of this story may be the fact that tea has a compound called theophylline as one of the active ingredients,” he said.
“In its pure form, theophylline is used to treat, not prevent, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, at doses much higher than what one would derive from tea. Theophylline has not been shown to be beneficial for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19.”
Africa Check has already debunked a claim that “regular” tea, fever grass tea and African lemongrass tea can cure Covid-19.
Kenyans can sleep in. Unfortunately, tea won’t protect anyone from the coronavirus, even if they drink it at dawn. – Vincent Ng’ethe
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