Sri Lanka minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, who drank sorcerer's virus syrup, tests positive

World | 23 Jan 2021 11:50 pm

Sri Lanka’s health minister in the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government, who has been mocked for drinking  and endorsing a herbal syrup made by a sorcerer, and claimed to be a world cure for the coronavirus, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A Health Ministry official on Saturday confirmed that Pavithra Wanniarachchi became the highest-ranking official to be infected with the coronavirus. She and her immediate contacts have been asked to self-quarantine.

A Cabinet minister, she promoted the syrup with the tacit endorsement of the government and with the help of partisan media network owned by a government supporter.

She also poured a pot of "blessed" water into a river in November after a self-styled god-man told her that it would end the pandemic.

On social media, she has come in for severe mockery of her activity and her embrace of myths, instead of seeking to secure global vaccines.

"Her antigen test returned positive on Friday and she has been asked to isolate herself," a Health Ministry official said. "All her immediate contacts have been quarantined."

Doctors have said there is no scientific basis for the syrup, which largely contains spices, honey, nutmeg, and ginger juice, as a remedy for the coronavirus.

Thousands of people gathered in long queues in December in the town of Kegalle, northeast of the capital Colombo, to obtain the syrup, just days after Wanniarachchi and several other government officials publicly drank it.

The maker of the syrup, said to be a carpenter, has said he got the formula through divine powers. In local media, he claimed the Hindu goddess Kaali appeared to him in a dream and gave the recipe to save humanity from the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Women and Child Development Minister Piyal Nishantha de Silva also became infected. He was among several politicians who drank the widely-promoted concoction. De Silva drank the syrup along wih the speaker of the Parliament to promote it to the people. They have been widely condemned for the reckless promotion of a dubious syrup as a coronavirus cure.

Meanwhile on Saturday, President Rajapaksa announced that Sri Lanka will receive the first stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India as a gift on January 27. India is said to hand over 600,000 doses of Covishield, te Indian name for the shot made by the Serum Institue of Pune.-AP/AFP/The Standard




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