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Authorities double down on counter measures 



COVID-19 count from latest cluster jumps to 80 

By Norman Palihawadane

Army Commander and Head of the National Operation Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, yesterday, requested people to adhere to maximum precautions as the new cluster of COVID-19 has a dangerous potential of spreading out of the Gampaha District to other areas.

He said there was, however, no need to horde items unnecessarily, although a police curfew was imposed in several areas, following the detection of a COVID-19 patient in the community on Saturday.

The people needed to avoid unnecessary travel and follow health safety instructions religiously, he said.

Lt. Gen. Silva said that the curfew had been extended to three police areas due to the large number of employees in the garment factory, where the infected woman worked as a supervisor.

As at yesterday the number of COVID-19 positive cases found from the latest cluster had increased up to 69.

The curfew imposed in Veyangoda, Divulapitiya and Minuwangoda police areas continues to be in effect.

The Army Commander said the family of the COVID-19 positive individual in Divulapitiya had been directed to undergo quarantine together with other families she had interacted with and the employees and the supervisor of the garment factory had been advised to undergo self-quarantine.

It has not yet been ascertained how a woman living in the Divulapitiya area in Gampaha became infected with COVID-19. Lt. General Silva said they were still inquiring into how the individual contracted the coronavirus and vowed to trace the root cause of the outbreak within the coming days.

Director General of the Government Information Department Nalaka Kaluwewa said that the health sector was seeking the assistance of the general public to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that the health sector emphasised that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health covering all sectors should be strictly followed.

The guidelines included instructions covering 56 sectors on how to continue public and professional activities, while preventing the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

He noted that the health sector further emphasised that the public and the respective professionals should follow those guidelines at all times.

The health sector would closely monitor whether the recommendations were being followed properly, he said.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents



Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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