Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) – The Sri Lankan health minister, who has faced criticism for consuming and endorsing herbal syrup made by a magician, has tested positive for COVID-19.
A Health Ministry official confirmed on Saturday that Pavitra Vaniyarchchi became the highest-ranking official to be infected with the virus. He and his immediate contacts have been asked to self-quarantine.
Doctors have said that there is no scientific basis for the syrup as there is a remedy for coronovirus. It is said to contain honey and nutmeg.
Thousands of people gathered in long queues in December in the town of Kegel, northeast of the capital Colombo, just days after receiving the syrup, Vanniarachchi and several other government officials consumed it publicly.
The maker of the syrup said that he got the formula through his divine powers. In the local media, he claimed that the Hindu goddess Kali appeared to him in a dream and gave a recipe to save humanity from the coroners.
Sri Lankan people are used to take regular medicine and indigenous alternative medicines to cure diseases.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced that Sri Lanka would receive the first stock of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India on 27 January.
He said that India is giving this stock for free and his government is making arrangements to buy more vaccines from India, China and Russia.
Sri Lanka approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday amid doctors’ warnings that front-line health staff should be vaccinated quickly to prevent the medical system from collapsing. The vaccine was first approved for emergency use in Sri Lanka.
The Ministry of Health says that vaccination will begin by mid-February.
A fresh outbreak of the disease was seen in Sri Lanka in October when two clusters – one focused on a textile factory and the other the main fish market – emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
Sri Lanka has recorded 52,964 cases with 278 deaths.
This story has been corrected to show that the town where people were engaged in line for syrup was Kegel.
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