A popular shaman in Sri Lanka who claimed to be able to cure coronavirus patients with a holy water died last week after being infected with the virus, a health ministry official said this weekend.
The shaman, known as Eliyantha Lindsay White, was not vaccinated. He died on Wednesday after being taken to a hospital, the official said.
Mr. White was an influential and divisive figure in Sri Lanka, where about 53 percent of people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. The shaman, who was 48, practiced alternative medicine involving questionable potions whose ingredients were never publicly disclosed.
Some high-ranking officials in the Sri Lankan government and several professional athletes have said publicly that they believed in Mr. White’s healing powers. But he was denounced by medical professionals.
“There is no credible evidence to show if there was a positive result from his work,” said Dr. Samantha Ananda, a spokeswoman for the Government Medical Officers’ Association, a major trade union for doctors in Sri Lanka. “We do not recommend anything that is not proven in a scientific method.”
Dr. Ananda said that the politicians who had publicly endorsed Mr. White might have done so to ingratiate themselves with his legion of fans.
Contact information for Mr. White’s family was not available, and a telephone message left with a person close to the family was not returned.
In November, three ministers in Sri Lanka’s government, including a former health minister, were shown on video throwing pots containing Mr. White’s holy water into several rivers that serve as the main sources of drinking water in the country. Mr. White had said that ingesting the concoction would cure Covid-19.
Pavithra Wanniarachchi, the former health minister, subsequently contracted the virus and spent two weeks in intensive care, according to the BBC. None of the three ministers in the video responded to phone calls seeking comment.