Forget toilet paper: Tunisians panic-buy garlic as rumours spread it slays coronavirus

Forget toilet paper: Tunisians panic-buy garlic as rumours spread it slays coronavirus
An official WHO warning against eating garlic for protection against coronavirus has not deterred Tunisians from stockpiling the bulbs, which are believed to have special health properties.
2 min read
13 March, 2020
Prices of garlic have doubled amid the COVID-19 outbreak [Getty]
The price of garlic has shot up in Tunisia as consumers have rushed to stockpile the flavoursome bulbs in the hope it will help protect against the novel coronavirus, despite caution from the World Health Organization

In Tunisia's central market this week, and in supermarkets and other stores, the price of garlic has risen to around 20-25 dinars (£7) a kilo, in a country where the average monthly salary is around 600 dinars.

"Before, I used to buy five kilos (of garlic) for eight dinars a kilo and would sell it for 12, but now I can't buy it anymore because the price has gone up so much", said Khames Nabli, a shopkeeper in the south of the capital.

Tunisia has registered six cases of the novel coronavirus, most in people who had been in Italy. A seventh person infected with the virus has returned to France.

Garlic is often used to help ward off the flu, whose symptoms can be similar to those of COVID-19.

But some online websites and online posts have incorrectly suggested the bulb can protect against the novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic.

In-depth: A tale of two outbreaks: How Gulf countries succeeded where Iran failed on containing coronavirus

The WHO has sought to combat rumours about the virus, including the effect of garlic.

"Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties," the WHO website's coronavirus "myth busters" page reads in several languages, including French and Arabic.

"However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus."  

That hasn't stopped people rushing to buy it in Tunisia. 

"This unjustified rush has pushed up prices", said Yasser Ben Khalifa, a commerce ministry official, citing difficulties in obtaining supplies on the world market.

"The prices at the moment should be around 12 or 13 dinars", he said, expecting a marked drop in prices at the start of the Tunisian harvest in April.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected