“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”.
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.
“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
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.