Sri Lanka’s president demoted the Minister of Health on Monday who publicly endorsed witchcraft and magic potions to fight Covid-19, as coronavirus infections and deaths hit record levels.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said Pavithra Wanniarachchi’s health portfolio was handed over to Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who is also the government spokesperson.
Wanniarachchi was in intensive care in January after contracting the virus despite consuming and publicly approving a “magic potion” against Covid-19 made by a wizard.
She also poured a jar of “blessed” water into a river in November after a so-called man-god told her it would end the pandemic in the island nation of 21 million.
Sri Lanka’s health ministry under Wanniarachchi came under heavy criticism last week for underestimating coronavirus infections.
Despite the demotion, she will remain in cabinet – the president has given her the less important Ministry of Transport.
The daily death toll from the virus crossed 150 last week, overwhelming crematoriums.
Daily infections have topped 3,000 and hospitals struggling to cope, even government health officials say the actual number of infections could be three times as high.
The government has so far rejected calls for a lockdown to contain the outbreak, but last week restrictions were tightened.
Weddings and parties are banned from Tuesday, while state ceremonies and public gatherings are also banned until September 1.
Shops, restaurants and agents will have to respect a nighttime curfew from Monday.
During the cabinet reshuffle, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Education Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris swapped their portfolios.
© 2021 AFP