Sri Lanka holy man's 'miracle' coronavirus potion turns sour

Health workers in Colombo waiting to collect swab samples from residents to test for Covid-19 on Dec 30, 2020.
Health workers in Colombo waiting to collect swab samples from residents to test for Covid-19 on Dec 30, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - A self-styled Sri Lankan holy man's supposed miracle potion to prevent Covid-19 turned sour on Tuesday (Jan 18) after a minister who publicly drank it was hospitalised with the virus.

Thousands had defied public gathering restrictions to swamp a village in central Sri Lanka last month to get 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 he had since tested positive for the coronavirus and was taken to a treatment centre.

Family members of another politician, who hailed from Bandara's village, had also been infected despite taking the syrup.

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

The only ingredients he acknowledged were honey and nutmeg. The government has scrambled to distance itself from Bandara, whose preparation was approved as a food supplement by the official indigenous medicine unit.

"Although some parliamentarians took it, the government does not endorse it," said Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella.

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