The health minister of Sri Lanka has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, despite earlier endorsing and drinking a "magic potion" that supposedly offered life-long protection against the disease.
A shaman claimed that he received a recipe for the potion while in the midst of a visionary dream, BBC News reports, before being drunk by health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi. Doctors in the country debunked the "potion," which it later transpired contained honey and nutmeg, making it more of a delicious yogurt topping than a vaccine.
Nevertheless, the minister endorsed the topping as a way of stopping the spread of the disease, prompting members of the public to head to the village where it had been made. In November, Wanniarachchi also poured water that had been "blessed" by a shaman into a river, after he told her that it would end the pandemic. Cases have steadily risen since then, reaching a new peak of their outbreak on Sunday.
The pandemic has thus far seen a lot of quack cures and unproven medicine being taken across the world. People have promoted everything from hot peppers (which the World Health Organization notes is very tasty but ineffective) to spraying or ingesting bleach, which is far less tasty and much more deadly. Some have involved drinking cow dung or urine, or camel pee with lime.
One particularly deadly rumor caused the deaths of hundreds, and thousands of hospitalizations last year.
"A popular myth that consumption of highly concentrated alcohol could disinfect the body and kill the virus was circulating in different parts of the world," an international team from institutions around the globe wrote in a study published in October on rumors and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19. "Following this misinformation, approximately 800 people have died, whereas 5,876 have been hospitalized and 60 have developed complete blindness after drinking methanol as a cure of coronavirus."
World leaders themselves are not immune from COVID-19 misinformation, from former president Donald Trump to the president of Madagascar, who promoted an unproven health tonic claiming that it could cure the disease, shortly before the island nation's infections quadrupled in a month.
Wanniarachchi became the fourth health minister in Sri Lanka to test positive for the virus on Friday, January 22, with a junior minister also testing positive earlier in the week. Following a second test that also confirmed she was positive for the infection, she is now self-isolating, along with her immediate contacts.
The country has seen 58,430 cases and 283 deaths so far.