Sri Lankan shaman dies of Covid-19 after touting 'blessed' water cure

Buddhist monks performing the last rites during the funeral of Mr Eliyantha White on Sept 23, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - A high-profile shaman who tried to end Sri Lanka's Covid-19 outbreak with "blessed" water has died of the virus, his family said on Thursday (Sept 23).

Mr Eliyantha White, 48, who treated sports stars and top politicians, including the country's prime minister, claimed in November he could end the pandemic in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India by pouring pots of his "blessed" water into rivers.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi endorsed the water treatment, but was infected two months later and ended up in a hospital intensive care unit.

She was later demoted and lost her portfolio, but remains in the Cabinet.

Mr White attracted international attention in 2010 when legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar publicly thanked him for treating a knee injury, saying it helped him hit the first-ever one-day international double century against South Africa.

In a 2010 interview with AFP, Mr White claimed he had "special powers" since the age of 12. He has since treated other Indian cricket stars, including Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra.

Mr White's family said he had refused the Covid-19 vaccine. His body was cremated at Colombo's main cemetery on Thursday in line with quarantine regulations.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was among politicians to have consulted Mr White, said on Twitter: "His legacy will continue to live through all the lives he touched and healed of various ailments."

But mainstream doctors described Mr White as a fraud and Ayurveda physicians rejected his claims - even though the shaman said he used methods from the 3,000-year-old Indian medical tradition.

Sri Lanka's total coronavirus deaths exceeded 12,000, with more than half a million people infected so far.

Doctors say the real toll is at least twice as high and the authorities have resorted to mass cremations to clear bodies piling up at hospitals and morgues.

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