Panic stricken China hoards anti-diarrhoea drugs as WeChat post claims ‘gastrointestinal symptoms’ of XBB Covid variant
Beijing: Rumours of a new Covid-19 wave driven by Omicron subvariant XBB have led residents to stock up on anti-diarrhoea pills.
Health experts have been trying to quash the rumours, ensuring that diarrhoea is not a symptom of Covid caused by the XBB subvariant. They have also said that China is “extremely unlikely” to see a new wave of the virus within the next three months.
The efforts made by health experts to ease the panic among the public have however failed with people hoarding up medicines and oximeters.
Rumours spread on WeChat
The panic buying started when a user posted on WeChat about how dangerous and transmissive the XBB variant is that’s “circulating abroad” and asked people to stock up on medicines like “diosmectite rehydration salts,” according to South China Morning Post.
In the post, the user also mentioned that the XBB.1.5 variant has now become the dominant strain in US and how it is more deadly than ever.
A screenshot of the said post didn’t take long to get viral, triggering panic buying of medicines including anti-diarrhoeal drugs on the assumption that the new strain causes gastrointestinal symptoms.
Posts accompanied with hashtags “diosmectite”, an over-the-counter gastrointestinal drug, and “how to guard against the XBB strain” soon became trending topics on China’s equivalent of Twitter called Weibo.
A Weibo user from the southwestern province of Guangxi said, “Some pharmacies really have nothing left.”
“Ibuprofen, paracetamol – both oral and rectal, thermometers, masks, cough syrup, medicine for colds – they are all no longer available. Now we cannot even get diosmectite,” the user added.
Pharmacies across Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen reported that they had run out of anti-diarrhoea drugs for both adults and children.
WeChat user behind viral post called in police station
Soon after his post went viral, the user based in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi clarified that his post was only meant for his friends to see and that he never intended to cause panic.
On Monday, he was summoned to a local police station to make a statement and was advised not to post “anything that wasn’t factual,” the user told China National Radio.
‘No evidence’ of XBB causing diarrhoea
Health experts have been urging residents not to take anti-diarrhoea drugs in excess. Yang Yiheng, chief pharmacist at the Peking University Third Hospital said that if taken regularly and excessively, diosmectite may cause constipation.
“The main principle of treatment for diarrhoea is to prevent dehydration. The amount of fluid that is expelled has to be replaced,” Yang told Beijing Daily.
The National Health Body of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have also urged people to be “reasonable” while buying medicines and not hoard them.
Xu Wenbo, head of China CDC’s National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention said that gastrointestinal symptoms are not exclusive to the XBB variant. He added that there’s “no evidence” that the subvariant would trigger severe gastronomical manifestations among the infected.