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16 Aug, 2021 13:04

Sri Lanka demotes health minister for promoting Covid ‘magic potion’ treatment

Sri Lanka demotes health minister for promoting Covid ‘magic potion’ treatment

Sri Lanka’s president has announced that the country’s health minister, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, has been sacked for pushing Covid misinformation and promoting false treatments amid surging case numbers.

Announcing Wanniarachchi’s dismissal on Monday, the president’s office confirmed she would move to a position in the transport ministry, with media minister Keheliya Rambukwella taking her health portfolio. 

The cabinet shake-up comes after Wanniarachchi pushed claims that a “magic potion” made by a sorcerer helped to protect her and others against Covid. The former health minister stated that she had poured “blessed” water into a river in the country in November after a so-called “god-man” had told her doing so would end the Covid outbreak in the country.

However, coronavirus infections have continued to rise throughout Sri Lanka, with the number of fatalities from the virus rising to more than 150 and new cases growing to over 3,000 per day in the past week. As medical facilities are overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak, health experts in the government have warned that infections could triple in the coming weeks.

Wanniarachchi had faced growing criticism in her role as health minister for underestimating the devastation caused by the deadly wave of Covid sweeping across the country. Alongside pushing Covid misinformation, Wanniarachchi had rejected supporting a lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus, although the government increased restrictions last week.

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Currently, an evening curfew will come into effect on shops, restaurants and offices from Monday, with weddings and parties prohibited from Tuesday and all ceremonies and public gatherings barred from going ahead until September.

Since the start of the pandemic, Sri Lanka has reported 354,968 confirmed cases and 6,039 deaths from Covid, with only 14.9 million doses of a vaccine administered, according to data reported to the World Health Organization.

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