Sciences et santé

High demand of Nestlé milk to fight COVID-19 in Indonesia

After videos spread the idea that Bear Brand, a milk produced by Nestlé, helps against Covid-19, the country has been running out of the product. In the meantime, Indonesia records its highest numbers of infections and some receive a live chicken as an incentive to get vaccinated.

In the last few days, Indonesia has been reporting a daily record of 29,745 Covid-19 infections and 558 deaths. While in the middle of a surge of the virus, cans of milk under the name Bear Brand become hard to find.

In fact, online videos suggested that this standard UHT milk made by the Swiss food giant Nestlé, could help cure Covid-19. Images of Indonesians rushing on the product have become viral. Some stores have been forced to limit the number of cans that the panic buyers were able to acquire.

Positioned as a healthy product, like a large part of Nestlé’s portfolio, the milk doesn’t provide any more nutritional benefits than traditional sterilized milk. But it has been believed to be helpful to fight Covid-19. As such, the prices of the milk sold by the brand have soared. Nestlé Indonesia said they didn’t increase it but they were unable to determine the final selling price of the products available online from resellers.

Bear Brand cans a milk believed to cure covid-19
Nestlé’s milk has been in high demand to help against Covid-19 in Indonesia

Bear brand is a standard sterilized milk

Instead, Nestlé said it focused on meeting the demand. As long as people respect health protocols to buy the product, it proves to be an opportunity for the company. On July 4, Bear brand’s Facebook page published the following message: “Thank you for trusting BEAR BRAND products. We continue to do our best in order to meet the demands of consumers. Stay calm and continue to follow health protocols at all times.

Milk is not part of the daily diet of Indonesians. With less than 12 Liters of milk a year per capita, they were low consumers of dairy products. But the demand has been increasing as a burgeoning Indonesian middle class adopts more western diets. Nestlé started the construction of a factory in May 2021 that would start producing more Bear Brand milk by 2023 with local supply – the majority of the milk is imported right now.

Ivermectin is another hot property in Indonesia. Similar to what happens in other countries, prices increased on the black market, regardless of the WHO recommendations against the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19. Along with 10 other drugs, the Ministry of Health set a ceiling price for ivermectin to avoid speculators to make a profit from the crisis.

People flocking to buy Bear Brand milk
Indonesians in a store flocking to buy Bear Brand milk

Covid surge and slow vaccine rollout

Indonesia is amid a surge of Covid-19 infections and deaths. Hospitals suffer from a lack of oxygen. The authorities, which remained rather lax to protect the economy so far, imposed their toughest restrictions in 2021 with a work-from-home policy, closure of malls or religious buildings or dine-in restaurants.

The country has a target of vaccinating 181.5 million Indonesians over 18 by the end of 2021. But despite a slow supply of doses, the vaccine rollout has been slow. In fact, the population is skeptical of the safety of vaccines. As of July 4, 12% of the population received one jab and only 5% of the 271 million Indonesians got the second shot.

In Cianjur, a town in West Java, the police gave live chickens to every elderly person who accepted to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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