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Appeal to delay pregnancy: Not official stand says Dr. Sudarshini



‘Decision in the hands of Expert Committee chaired by DGHS’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says that the Expert Committee on Covid-19 will have to decide on making an official request for women not to get pregnant for about a year.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so when The Island sought her opinion on Dr. Harsha Atapattu’s appeal to the newly married and others to delay getting pregnant in view of the increased threat posed by the raging Covid-19 epidemic.

Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) heads the Expert Committee. Dr. Gunawardena didn’t answer his phone.

Dr. Atapattu made an unprecedented appeal at the regular media briefing at the Health Promotion Bureau on Wednesday (8). Dr. Atapattu addressed the media along with Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Hemantha Herath. He urged family planning during the interim period as the epidemic posed a severe threat to both mother and child. Dr. Herath too didn’t answer his phone.

The appeal was made in the wake of authorities placing the number of pregnant women infected by Covid-19 at 5,500 and the number of fatalities from the virus in that group at 41.

Asked to explain her stand as the State Minister in charge of Covid, who was also a medical specialist, the Gampaha District lawmaker said Dr. Atapattu’s appeal should be examined against the backdrop of the pregnant being at a high risk of contracting Covid-19, especially the Delta variant.

“Maternal death rate has gone up due to Covid-19 as immunity is weak during pregnancy,” Dr. Fernandopulle said.

Responding to another query, Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized that she shouldn’t be misconstrued as being supportive of the appeal.

The State Minister said that she made her assessment on scientific facts to save the life of the mother and baby. Questioned whether she believed the crisis could be overcome by family planning methods, the State Minister said that the issue at hand was whether things would improve in a year.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that she was not aware whether the issue had been discussed at the ministry level before Wednesday’s announcement was made at the Health Promotion Bureau.

So far, Covid-19 has caused nearly 11,000 deaths.

Acknowledging the merits in the appeal, Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized that it would be far more important to control the virus and its rapid spread. Asserting that it was an individual doctor’s opinion, Dr. Fernandopulle said that the opinion of the Sri Lanka Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ body too was important in that regard.

The Island sought views of several persons in the health sector regarding Dr. Atapattu’s appeal. They asserted that though Covid-19 posed quite a threat and a challenge, it wouldn’t be realistic to advise families or couples not to have babies.

WHO says there is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at a higher risk than the general population, of getting severely ill from the virus.

According to WHO, because a woman’s immune system undergoes changes during pregnancy, it is crucial that she takes good preventative measures to protect herself from illness, including COVID-19.

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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries



The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.


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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter



The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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