A spiritual healer in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, who claimed to have the power to cure COVID-19 through kisses, has died of the same disease.
This "Baba" or self-styled holy man was apparently a black magic healer from the Ratlam district, who claimed he could cure his followers by "kissing their hands.”
"He got himself tested for coronavirus after he began having severe symptoms, and passed away immediately,” Ratlam’s District Magistrate Ruchika Chauhan told VICE over the phone. “From the contact tracing we have done so far, seven of his family members and thirteen followers have tested positive. We are investigating the transmission and trying to contain it.”
However, Ratlam’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Gaurav Tiwari told The Print that over 50 people were contact-traced after the healer’s death. He also said that about 150 people from the district’s Nayapura region, which the healer visited, were placed in quarantine.
The healer’s fraudulent claims of curing people contributed to making the district a coronavirus hotspot, with 85 confirmed cases and 46 active patients. Madhya Pradesh currently has more than 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
The area’s Nodal Officer Dr. Pramod Prajapati, who is an officer appointed to maintain records, told a news website that the healer’s followers went to him to seek superstitious guidance despite government campaigns that raised awareness against such practices.
“After this incident, we realised that many people may be seeking medical help from such babas. We have led an intelligence team and identified about 20 such babas, who have now been placed in quarantine,” said District Magistrate Chauhan.
Throughout the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, many babas are under the scanner for peddling fake cures, such as the “Corona wale baba” in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh who was selling a talisman he claimed could keep the virus away. In Punjab, 40,000 people from over 20 villages were placed under quarantine because of one super spreader, a religious preacher who attended a religious ceremony early in March.
India’s most high-profile instance of super spreaders included attendees to a gathering of the evangelist Tablighi Jamaat who travelled across the country, leading to more than 4,000 infections. Similar incidents have been reported in states like Delhi, Karnataka and Gujarat, where super spreaders have caused the novel coronavirus to infect hundreds of people.
At the time of writing, India’s coronavirus count stands at 298,482, with 8,512 reported deaths. India now has the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.