Sri Lanka’s health minister tests positive for coronavirus after promoting magic potions to fight COVID-19

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Sri Lanka’s health minister, who publicly endorsed sorcery and magic potions to stop surging coronavirus infections in the island, has tested positive to COVID-19.

She and her close contacts will self-isolate, officials said on Saturday.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi had publicly consumed and endorsed a magic potion, later revealed to contain honey and nutmeg, manufactured by a sorcerer who claimed it worked as a life-long inoculation against the virus.

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.

The island nation of 21 million on Friday approved the emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine only hours after Ms Wanniarachchi tested positive, officials said.

“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.”

A junior minister who had also taken the potion made popular by Ms Wanniarachchi tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Family members of another politician have also been infected after taking the syrup.

Pro-government media gave widespread publicity to the holy man, who claimed the formula was revealed to him by Kali, a Hindu goddess of death and destruction.

But the Government has since scrambled to distance itself from the man, whose preparation was approved as a food supplement by the official indigenous medicine unit.

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a coronavirus surge, with the number of cases and deaths soaring from 3,300 and 13 in early October to nearly 57,000 infections and 278 dead this week.

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