Residents of Ongica and Atigolwok parishes, Apac district have cut down hundreds of pawpaw trees over misconceptions that they are carriers of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The locals descended on the pawpaw trees and cut them down on the directives of their local leaders. The local leaders reportedly set a fine of Shs 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 by a radio presenter that they spread Covid-19.
Francis Nixon Okol, a resident of Abwal A village in Ongica parish says that the move to cut down the papaws 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 former Tanzanian President John Pombe Magafuli’s statement on finding Covid-19 in pawpaw and goat meat samples after someone mentioned it on radio. 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 cutting down of the pawpaw trees is an indication that many local people do not understand how Covid-19 spreads. 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 urged 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 (WHO).