Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh in Parliament, yesterday.

Anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydrochloroquine can’t be used to treat the COVID-19 virus and some unsupervised use of these drugs in Nigeria and the US has resulted in poisoning, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday.

“They’re useless and possibly dangerous – we don’t recommend them,” Deyalsingh said in Parliament.

He gave the response to UNC MP Dr Lackram Bodoe, who asked about reports suggesting the two drugs may be valuable in COVID treatment. Bodoe wanted to know if Government was considering making this available to local patients. He also noted reports of increased demand for the drug.

Deyalsingh said the drugs were for treating a malaria caused by a parasite, when COVID-19 was a virus and the two are entirely different. He said reports of their effectiveness were purely anecdotal among a small number of patients and carried no scientific weight.

He said the drugs were proven in China to be no better than symptomatic care and the rush to use these drugs – unsupervised- had led to poisoning in three Nigerian cases and two in the US.

Deyalsingh said when such drugs are hoarded, it left a gap in the system and people who really need them to treat malaria can’t get them – increasing malaria cases.

“I’d ask the public to return these two drugs to pharmacies. They pose no real benefit to you,” he said.

National Security Minister Stuart Young, on another query, said a “national lockdown” wasn’t “on the front-burner at this stage.” But he said Government continued to monitor the situation with the Chief Medical Officer’s expert advice. The CMO yesterday said he had power of the Quarantine act. Young said an inter-ministerial team had “implemented” a list of those whom the Health Ministry would like to be monitored for quarantine.

Young said Government won’t use the law unnecessarily.

“We will if we have to. Police are assisting the CMO with what they need, including patrolling outside certain homes.”

UNC’s Roodal Moonilal asked about steps to curb mall numbers and what procedures are in place for those making VAT payments at BIR.

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan, on another query, said there’s no information to suggest any local or foreign passenger suspected of having COVID-19 was allowed ferry service travel. Among measures, the sea bridge is restricting terminal/vessel entry for anyone showing flu-like symptoms. He said a Cabo Star crew member was unwell last week but the Health Ministry advised the person wasn’t a suspected COVID case.