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COVID-19 Misconception: Apac Residents Cut Down Pawpaw Trees

Residents of Ongica and Atigolwok parishes in Chegere Sub County in Apac district have destroyed hundreds of pawpaw trees for fear that they could be carriers of the coronavirus pandemic. According to sources, about 2000 residents descended on the pawpaw trees cut them down on the directives of their local leaders.

The local leaders reportedly set a fine of Shillings 50,000 for whoever fails to comply with the directive. Vicky Otim, the Aminkec Village LC I Chairperson, says that many households in her area have cut down the papaw trees after being misinformed.

In May last year, the late Tanzanian president, John Pombe Magufuli suspended the in charge of the country’s national health laboratory in what he suspected to be a “dirty game” in the Lab. Magufuli, who had consistently downplayed the effect of the Coronavirus shocked the world when he said that he had secretly submitted samples from animals, fruits and vehicle oil for testing for Corona virus.

“Papaya, a quail and goat meat were found to be positive for COVID-19,” a statement that went viral on media causing confusion among some local leaders. Francis Nixon Okol, a resident of Abwal A Village in Ongica parish, Chegere Sub County, says that the move to cut down the papaw followed a disease outbreak that dries off the fruit.

He says that the disease that is yet to be identified by Agricultural experts was confused with Magafuli’s statement on COVID-19. Akol says in his area alone about 164 households had already cut down their papaw trees by Monday, which they have been depending on during food shortage.

Charles Dickens Okello, the Chegere Sub County LC III chairperson, says the destruction of the pawpaw trees is an indication that many people do not understand COVID-19. He suspects the disease disturbing the papaws could be the black rot Mycosphaerella caricae disease, adding that preparations are ongoing to take the pawpaw trees to the Lab for testing.

Francis Leone Oceng, the Apac District Health Officer, an expert says that there is no scientific evidence that pawpaws are a reservoir of coronavirus. He urges the residents to always include papaws in their diet since it provides vitamins to boost their body immunity.

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which spreads between people who are in close contact with each other typically within 1 meter (short-range). People may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus when touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands, according to the World Health Organisation.

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