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Thousands in Sri Lanka drink 'miracle' COVID potion, sick minister

Thousands in Sri Lanka drink 'miracle' COVID potion, sick minister

A self-proclaimed Sri Lankan saint's purported miracle potion to prevent COVID-19 has turned sour after a minister who publicly drank it was hospitalized with the virus.

Thousands defied public gathering restrictions to flood a town in central Sri Lanka last month to obtain the syrup made by Dhammika Bandara.

Women and Child Development Minister Piyal Nishantha de Silva was among several politicians who consumed the concoction, but parliamentary officials said Tuesday that she has since tested positive for coronavirus and taken to a treatment center.

Relatives of another politician, who came from Bandara village, had also been infected despite taking the syrup.

The pro-government media widely publicized Bandara, who claimed the formula was revealed to him by Kali, a Hindu goddess of death and destruction.

The drink contained honey, nutmeg, coriander, and other herbs and was available for the equivalent of $ 13 a bottle.

The herbal remedies are widely available in Sri Lanka, and at least 15,000 people showed up at the man's home for four days of sales in December, a local official said.

The holy businessman had also sold his miracle cure to businesses and temples, local media reported.

He had also given a sample to politicians and ministers. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi also took the potion, according to the DPA news agency, although her own ministry had not approved it as a medicine.

She was criticized by opposition lawmakers for spreading false hopes and encouraging people to flock to the holy man.

The government has been quick to distance itself from Bandara, whose preparation was approved as a food supplement by the official unit of indigenous medicine.

"Although some parliamentarians accepted it, the government does not support it," said Keheliya Rambukwella, media minister.

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a surge in coronavirus, with the number of cases and deaths rising from 3,300 and 13 in early October to 53,750 infections and 270 deaths now.

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