The President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, is sending a plane to Madagascar to fetch a herbal tonic touted as a cure for Covid-19 even as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned there was no proof of any cure.
Congo-Brazzaville’s president has also promised to import the drink.
It is produced from the artemisia plant – the source of an ingredient used in a malaria treatment.
The WHO also advised people against self-medicating.
The drink was launched as Covid-Organics and was being marketed after being tested on fewer than 20 people over a period of three weeks, the Tanzanian president’s chief of staff Lova Hasinirina Ranoromaro told the BBC.
In response to the launch of Covid-Organics, the WHO said in a statement sent to the BBC that the global organisation did not recommend “self-medication with any medicines… as a prevention or cure for Covid-19”.
It reiterated earlier comments by WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that there were “no short-cuts” to finding effective mediation to fight coronarvirus.
International trials were under way to find an effective treatment, the WHO added.
In March, the US-based National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warned against purported coronavirus remedies, including herbal therapies and teas – saying the best way to prevent infection was to avoid exposure to the virus.
On Saturday Madagascar delivered a shipment to Guinea-Bissau.
The Malagasy president also tweeted that the special envoy to Equatorial Guinea picked up a shipment of the drink.
Speaking on TV, President Magufuli said he was already in contact with the government of Madagascar and would despatch an aircraft to the island nation to collect the medicine.
“I am communicating with Madagascar, and they have already written a letter saying they have discovered some medicine. We will despatch a flight to bring the medicine so that Tanzanians can also benefit. So as the government we are working day and night,” he said.
Mr Magufuli has already been widely criticised for his reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
He has encouraged the public to continue gathering in places of worship, while much of the world has faced lockdown.
Tanzania’s delay in enforcing stricter measures to prevent further spread of coronavirus in the country could have led to the spike in positive cases, according to the WHO.
The country has 480 confirmed cases of coronavirus but Mr Magufuli said that number may be exaggerated and that he doubted the credibility of the national laboratory.
He said that he had secretly had some animals and fruits tested at the laboratory and that a papaya (paw-paw), a quail and a goat returned positive samples.
“That means there is possibility for technical errors or these imported reagents have issues,” he said, without giving more detail.