- Massive crowds gather in Kegalle, raising concerns over another cluster
- The preparation of a syrup takes over 24 hours at a time. The star ingredients of this potion are bee’s honey and nutmeg
Massive crowds thronged Hettimulla, Kegalle last morning, upon receiving the news that a ‘cure’ for Covid-19 would be distributed free of charge. The commotion resulted in several police teams including the Kegalle police, being deployed to the site to control crowds. Images of dozens of people donning face masks but standing hardly an inch away from each other, began circulating on social media with the phenomenon being dubbed “Peni Pokura” meaning syrup cluster.
Almost a week ago, a popular television channel interviewed a traditional physician about what he claimed was a cure for Covid-19. Dhammika Bandara who identified himself as a practitioner of hela wedakam, a form of indigenous medicine, was confident that his concoction would be a permanent cure for the Coronavirus.
“I have come up with this in a short period of time. I did a small batch of tests, which proved to be successful. Afterwards I gave this to Covid-19 positive patients as well as those who are vulnerable to Covid-19,” Bandara said, the concoction has never before been given to patients, adding that only he has the traditional recipe for this cure.
"Minister Jayakody requested that the group of doctors who led the trials at the Wathupitiwala hospital, not be harmed due to their actions"
“A doctor is capable of diagnosing a patient, and prescribing the necessary medicine for that patient, that’s what I did,” Bandara added when the interviewer queried about his statement that the syrup would ensure that a person would not contract Covid-19 for a lifetime, if the syrup is consumed as he prescribes. When the interviewer probed about antibodies and the differences in each body which may play a role in a person’s immunity to Covid-19, the Kegalle medical practitioner said “All are human, all beings are connected to nature. It is nature’s cure that I’m giving to them. I’m not a follower like others. Most people mimic what others do. Sri Lanka has plenty of medicines to treat this illness. I believe that this medicine is capable of alleviating all phlegm related illnesses.”
According to Bandara, whose syrup would supposedly make anyone immune to Covid-19 in future is made with four main ingredients. The preparation of a syrup takes over 24 hours at a time. The star ingredients of this potion are bee’s honey and nutmeg. According to Bandara, the production of 1 litre of this syrup costs Rs. 6500 without labour and suffices to treat 15 Covid-19 positive persons.
State support for indigenous medicine
State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Sisira Jayakody who supported Bandara said that clinical trials have been carried out for this potion at the Wathupitiwala COVID-19 treatment centre, led by a team of western medical doctors. PCR tests reportedly confirmed that the virus was not present in patients who consumed the syrup for three days. Addressing parliament Minister Jayakody requested that the group of doctors who led the trials at the Wathupitiwala hospital, not be harmed due to their actions. “The country can win only if the knowledge of indigenous medicine, western medicine, research methods and tools together with technology are combined together in this effort,” the Minister said.
"While mainstream media portrayed an orderly queue awaiting their turn to receive the cure, at this ceremony, social media posts showed a different reality"
Responding to this statement Opposition MP Kavinda Jayawardena addressing parliament said Dr. Dhammika Kumara had been removed from his post at the Wathupitiwala Treatment Centre following his involvement with this indigenous medicine trial.
Regardless of the debate around the effectiveness of this local ‘cure’, Bandara’s potion attracted hundreds of believers to a local treatment centre in Kegalle where the distribution of small bottles of the potion began after Buddhist rituals being observed.
While mainstream media portrayed an orderly queue awaiting their turn to receive the cure, at this ceremony, social media posts showed a different reality. One where crowds were on the verge of a pandemonium, with police officers stuck in between.
Addressing his visitors last morning Bandara said the syrup was made with natural everyday ingredients including bee’s honey and spices in the kitchen. “Anyone with illnesses should consume the syrup for three days, taking two tablespoons each morning and evening. For a normal person 1 tablespoon consumed for two days morning and evening would suffice for a lifetime,” he said.
"PCR tests reportedly confirmed that the virus was not present in patients who consumed the syrup for three days"
Co-Cabinet Spokesperson Ramesh Pathirana who is also a physician by profession weighed in on the matter during the weekly cabinet briefing yesterday. “We are happy to say that the government would positively consider the various indigenous Ayurvedic medical products. With the current situation, if this medicine’s response is successful, we hope to identify it as a short-term treatment method, which western medicine practitioners have also agreed to,” he said.
While many government officials have endorsed this idea, noting that any treatment programme should be done according to scientific research, it was evident that many already believed that the syrup would guarantee immunity from a disease which has brought the world to its knees. Debate ensued on social media between believers and non-believers with some questioning the science in the process and others quelling doubts over traditional and indigenous medicine.
Hospital systems can be exhausted in a matter of days
The Daily Mirror spoke to Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge to query their stance on the issue.
“In general, the success of a vaccine or an indigenous treatment has not been proven. There has been no final approval for many of the methods sought to combat Covid-19 around the world. Even in the case of the United Kingdom, where approval was granted for a vaccine programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not granted this vaccine or method a final seal of approval. Even the “hela osuwa” (local medicine) that is being discussed currently is similar. But it is good that a discussion has been created about treatment and research.
Dr. Aluthge however cautioned over following beliefs, while disregarding basic health and safety precautions. “What is most important at this juncture is to follow the basic health rules and guidelines under the Quarantine Act. When the precautions of hand washing and social distancing are forgotten in instances like this, Covid-19 will be the winner of the battle,” he said.
"People are accustomed to follow every trend or belief, at a moment when there is no other option. Covid-19 is a global pandemic, which people must not forget"
He added that people are accustomed to follow every trend or belief, at a moment when there is no other option. Covid-19 is a global pandemic, which people must not forget. But the government and security officials must be mindful that the rules and regulations under the Quarantine Act are maintained in situations like these. The monitoring needs to happen, as we cannot stop people from willingly seeking this cure. But it is the responsibility of health and security forces that the health guidelines are maintained,” Dr. Aluthge said.
The GMOA also warned that Sri Lanka is now in a complex situation. “The daily situation report used to indicate only a smaller number of patients. We now have patients reported from areas, which were identified as low-risk areas. For instance, the situation in the Samanthurai and Akkaraipaththu in the Eastern Province and the Kandy town were not expected. But clusters are now developing in Galle, Kurunegala and other areas,” he said.
“Global experts have warned that the festive period would signal a rise in Covid-19 patients as well as a spike in the number of deaths reported. From a daily report of 300 to 400 patients, we have come across a situation of rapid rise in the number of cases where at least 700 to 800 patients have been reported each day over the past few days. Meanwhile an average of at least 4 deaths are being reported. If the public does not take caution, this numbers would only increase,” Dr. Aluthge added.
The GMOA believes that the situation has so far been controlled as the health capacities in the country have been slowly expanding. “But we shouldn’t forget that there is a limit. More than seven thousand positive cases are being managed by the health system at present. In Polonnaruwa, for example, they have sufficient beds for patients, but it’s not a great number. We expect the present capacity to be increased to at least another 2000. When there are 400 recovered patients per day, with 800 new patients, it would only take a couple of days to exceed this capacity,” Dr. Aluthge said highlighting the need to act with social responsibility.
- What is most important at this juncture is to follow the basic health rules and guidelines under the Quarantine Act
- Global experts have warned that the festive period would signal a rise in Covid-19 patients as well as a spike in the number of deaths reported
- Dr. Haritha Aluthge