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Association of Medical Specialists calls for district level lockdowns



The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to impose ‘lockdowns’ at district level with immediate effect to bring the raging Covid-19 pandemic under control.

The AMS has also sought an urgent meeting with President Rajapaksa to explain ways and means of meeting the health challenge. The AMS has stressed the need to revisit what the professional body calls Covid-19 management strategy without further delay.

The AMS has questioned the rationale behind claims that vaccination is a panacea.

The following is the text of a letter titled, ‘Battle against Covid-19: Are we at a tipping point” written jointly by Dr Lakkumar Fernando and Dr. R. Gnanasekeram, President and General Secretary of the AMS, respectively: “As medical specialists serving in the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, we strongly believe that Sri Lanka is at a critical stage. Number of new cases keep rising continuously. During last week, the daily number of ‘declared’ new infections have consistently been over 1,800, and went above 2,500 during the last 24 hours. The number of Covid-related deaths too have been increasing steadily, with daily counts of approximately 20, even after a questionable exclusion of those with co-morbidities. We should appreciate at least three times the reported number of new cases do exist in the community.

“We also know that healthcare resources are fast reaching its threshold. Health sector beds and available facilities are almost saturated. Requirement for oxygen is increasing exponentially as we have started seeing more symptomatic patients. ICU beds are almost fully occupied. Healthcare professionals are exhausted and apprehensive with many getting infected with Covid-19 themselves.

“Preliminary predictive disease modelling done by WHO, Geneva, recently with the assumption that current disease trend will continue without any public health interventions, Sri Lanka would most likely be reporting 10,000 cases daily within the next three weeks. If that happens, we can expect the number of deaths to exceed 100 per day. If the country reaches this ‘tipping point’ with the disease spiraling out of control, it would be extremely difficult to recover from that point.

“Some are of the opinion that vaccination is the panacea to all our problems. There are two challenges to that narrative. One is the problems associated with quick access to safe and effective vaccines to cover at least 65-70% of the population with two doses. The time taken for vaccines to provide protection has been widely accepted to be at least three weeks weeks after the second dose. Pending protection from the vaccines which is the key pillar supporting the fight against Covid-19, public health interventions to restrict people’s movements should be the most important tool to avert a disastrous outcome during this critical period.

“Therefore, we urge Your Excellency to impose effective lockdowns at least at district level to restrict people’s movement with immediate effect. The current practice of isolating communities at GN division level is neither preserving economic activity nor controlling transmission of the disease. Whilst assuring the President of our unstinted support to overcome the present challenges and save Sri Lanka from an unprecedented public health catastrophe, we hope the recommendations made by us will be implemented urgently. We also believe that the time has come to revisit Sri Lanka’s management strategy of Covid-19 before it rages out of control.

 “We hope and pray that Your Excellency would consider our request and suggestions in the right spirit and in a constructive manner.

We are aware that your Excellency has an extremely busy schedule at present due to a variety of reasons. However, we would be very grateful if you could give us an opportunity to meet you with a group of relevant professionals to explain further why we think some drastic measures are immediately needed.”



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic



Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds



By Dinasena Ratugamage


Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.



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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle



It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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