Chinese are turning to social media influencers and celebrities for tips about treating COVID-19 after the country’s whipsaw reversal in virus strategy undermined trust in government advice and health officials.

China’s rapid dismantling of pandemic restrictions over a matter of weeks at the end of last year led to a quick surge in infections, with COVID-19 spreading through cities and towns that have had little experience with the virus until now. With the government hastily retreating, people are increasingly looking to social media for answers, resulting in a corresponding increase in misinformation and even dangerous advice.

Search queries about treating common COVID-19 maladies, from whether the XBB sub-variant causes diarrhea to how best to treat pneumonia, throw up a raft of responses on the Chinese internet: adopt a vegan diet, take multiple antibodies, or even ways to buy illegal enzymes from online celebrities.

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