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Turkmenistan president claims licorice can cure coronavirus

Well-known for his baffling botanical pronouncements, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov claimed Saturday that licorice could cure coronavirus, the latest supposed miracle cure in a country still claiming zero cases.

“Scientists from every country are looking for effective cures, running various studies, and one of them could be licorice root,” the leader of the ex-Soviet country told ministers.

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their talks on the sideline of the Summit of leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 11, 2019. (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Without citing any scientific evidence, former dentist Berdymukhamedov claimed that “licorice stops the coronavirus from developing” and “even a weak concentration of a water-based extract has a neutralizing effect.”

Turkmenistan has “sufficient reserves” of licorice, he added, ordering the national academy of sciences to study the plant’s supposed health effects.

Berdymukhamedov had already in March recommended that people “systematically” burn wild rue, a strong-smelling plant believed to have medicinal properties, to combat the coronavirus, sending prices skyrocketing.

The leader has a long history of moves aimed at boosting his country’s fauna and flora.

While global health authorities have long recommended wearing masks, social distancing and regular hand-washing to slow the spread of the virus, it took a July visit from a World Health Organization delegation for Turkmenistan to adopt the measures.

The government, however, still justifies mask-wearing as protection against “dust” and unspecified “pathogens,” rather than coronavirus.

Non-food shops and restaurants have been closed since summer and bus and train timetables trimmed back.

The country also maintains that it has detected zero cases – even after Britain’s ambassador in Ashgabat reported he had contracted COVID-19.

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