Hundreds dead in Iran after false rumour methanol can help fight virus

Nearly 300 people are reported to have been killed and more than 1,000 have become ill after ingesting toxic methanol across Iran amid rumours it can help cure coronavirus.

In the Islamic Republic, drinking alcohol is banned, and those who do drink rely on bootleggers.

Stories about fake remedies for coronavirus have spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.

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Dr Knut Erik Hovda, a clinical toxicologist in Oslo who studies methanol poisoning, fears Iran's outbreak could be even worse than reported.

Hundreds dead in Iran after false rumours methanol can fight virus

"The virus is spreading and people are just dying off, and I think they are even less aware of the fact that there are other dangers around," he said.

"When they keep drinking this, there's going to be more people poisoned."

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Iran has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. It has a population of 80 million people.

Iranian social media accounts in Farsi falsely suggested a British school teacher and others cured themselves of the coronavirus with whisky and honey, based on a tabloid story from early in February.

Mixed with messages about the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, some people wrongly believed drinking high-proof alcohol would kill the virus in their bodies.

The Islamic Republic has reported around 29,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,200 deaths from the virus, the highest toll of any country in the Middle East.

International experts also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases, as officials played down the impact of the virus for days ahead of a parliamentary election.

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