Fact check: Panelo says Korea did total lockdown; eating bananas and gargling prevent COVID-19
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - March 16, 2020 - 3:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo disclosed that Cabinet officials had already proposed a total lockdown for Metro Manila. 

He bared that the proposal would be taken up at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Monday afternoon, the lead body behind the administration's response to the worsening virus. 

READ: Metro Manila quarantined for 30 days as alarm heightens over COVID-19

According to Panelo, citizens were at risk of exposing themselves to the virus every time they went out. 

However, the spokesperson at the press briefing also dropped a number of questionable claims. 

South Korea implemented a total lockdown? 

Panelo first said that the Philippines would take Korea's lead in implementing a total lockdown.

"What Secretary Año and other members of the Cabinet are considering is what [South] Korea carried out. They did a total lockdown. That is what we'll present to the president," he said in Filipino. 

As of this writing, South Korea has not implemented such a measure. 

Instead, the East Asian country initiated a comprehensive testing drive to supplement its already-advanced healthcare system.

READ: South Korea sees more virus patients recover than new infections

It was actually Italy that imposed a total lockdown—arguably among the hardest-hit nations in the world after recording some 21,000 cases and 1441 deaths. 

Other countries that have implemented lockdowns include Denmark, France and Spain, who most recently announced its lockdown after it documented 1500 new cases in just 24 hours.

Sans complete lockdowns, many other countries, particularly in Europe, have imposed border and travel restrictions.

'Ako kasi, mahilig ako sa saging,' Panelo says 

Duterte's mouthpiece also shared a few ways the general public could protect themselves from transmitting the virus.

These included eating bananas often and gargling salt water. 

"I read a few things about how to destroy or contain the virus. You know, even without me knowing it, I've been fond of bananas," he said. 

"They I saw on the internet, that bananas are a good way to fight [viruses]. So here I am, eating bananas every day."

Gargling prevents COVID-19 transmission? 

"It has been my habit to gargle salt water. Whenever I feel a bit of colds, I do it. [Health Secretary Francisco] Duque said that's okay. Even gargling with Listerine," Panelo went on. 

He explained that this was because the virus would first enter the body via the throat.

Panelo may have been referring to a graphic that circulated social media earlier this week with these same claims. 

“Corona virus before it reaches the lungs it remains in the throat for four days and at this time the person begins to cough and have throat pains,” the graphic read. 

"If he drinks water a lot and gargling with warm water & salt or vinegar eliminates the virus. Spread this information because you can save someone with this information."

This is not necessarily true.

What have credible sources said? 

As early as January, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said, "I don’t think there is any evidence that it will kill a virus. I think this is a home remedy that has been followed for many, many generations and I don’t think there’s going to be any harm in doing it."

"Saline gargle has always been advocated to improve mostly symptoms of sore throat,” he added. 

"To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)," the World Health Organization says

On the same page, the WHO also highlighted that “there is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections."

One thing Panelo got right though was the reminder for the public to observe proper hand-washing. 

"But constantly we have to wash our hands," the president's spokesperson said. "It's necessary that we take steps to protect ourselves. We just have to be careful."

Along with its recommendation of social distancing, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regularly washing hands is among the "most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs." 

As of Monday, 2:30 p.m., Worldometers has recorded a total of 169,864 cases of COVID-19 worldwide. — with reports from Agence France-Presse

COVID-19 FACT CHECK NOVEL CORONAVIRUS SALVADOR PANELO
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