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Covid-19 myths: Lamu elders urge locals to swim in salty water

Wednesday April 15 2020

Khaldun Vae, an elder from Kizingitini Village in Lamu East.

Khaldun Vae, an elder from Kizingitini Village in Lamu East. He is among the elders encouraging people to swim in salty Indian Ocean waters to avert coronavirus. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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While coronavirus has now spread to most countries in the world, there's still no hope for a cure in sight, even as scientists race to develop vaccines.

The lack of a cure, and perhaps fear of Covid-19, has led to lots of unverified medical advice on how to prevent and cure the disease.

While many of the widespread claims are being shared online, there are also unproven claims being disseminated offline that have proven harder to track.

In Lamu County, for example, elders from a remote village in Lamu East are encouraging locals to swim in the salty Indian Ocean waters daily while claiming that it might help avert Covid-19 infection.

Lamu residents have for decades believed that saline water from the ocean has the ability to kill all manner of viruses, bacteria as well as treating many ailments.

Speaking to journalists at Kizingitini over the weekend, elders led by Khaldun Vae reiterated that they have high hope that salty water can prevent people from catching the virus due to its anti-bacterial properties.

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This is despite the fact that viruses and bacteria are treated differently, and despite lack of scientific evidence to support the claim.

“For ages, our forefathers and even ourselves have been using salty water from the Indian Ocean as a remedy for various ailments. If you have a wound and you swim in salty water, it gets healed faster. We used to treat various ailments like flu, common cold and other virus-related diseased using salty water and it has been really working. We therefore advise our people, particularly the aged across Lamu County and the Coast region to form a habit of swimming frequently in salty water from the Indian Ocean, especially during this period of Covid-19. We believe after swimming, no viruses including coronavirus can survive,” said Mr Vae.

Kassim Shee, another elder, claims that swimming in the Indian Ocean can supplement hand washing and other precautionary measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

“As we concentrate on the use of hand sanitisers and other mechanisms to maintain our hygiene, at the same time, let’s give our advice a chance. Let’s form the habit of swimming in Indian Ocean water. Our forefathers have been doing this and many diseases were healed. Let’s not treat it like a joke,” said Mr Shee.

The elders’ sentiments come just weeks after the Lamu County government through the Disaster Response Team resorted to using sea water to fumigate streets within Lamu Old Town, the various jetties and other public places against coronavirus.