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Brace for fourth wave unless…

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If the Health Ministry did not expand PCR testing and gene sequencing, it was likely to lead to the emergence of a new wave of infections within four weeks, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS,) Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday.

Kumudesh said that lab technologists had been asking the Ministry to expand testing capacity for two months and had presented a number of proposals on how to do it overnight. Kumudesh said that there was no immediate need for more PCR machines, and the ones already available could be used to conduct more tests if the Health Ministry so desired. “With the existing machines and the personnel handling them, we can easily increase PCR testing by 300% overnight”, he said.

“We have repeatedly told the government that we can address any issue in conducting PCR tests and releasing reports by deploying a few mobile PCR labs. This will help sort out many issues in regional towns especially those concerning PCR tests conducted on corpses. The government in fact had allocated money for this, but the Health Ministry is delaying the purchase of the required equipment,” Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh charged that it could only be seen as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the introduction of mobile PCR labs.

The collection of samples, even at hospitals had dropped significantly. There was no attempt to test potential hotspots and preempt any outbreaks, Kumudesh said, adding that the data issued by the Ministry did not reflect the ground realities.

“We saw similar developments in late March and early April. We will again end up making wrong decisions. It is highly likely that we will see a new outbreak in about four weeks. The only thing we have to tell people is that they should not let their guard down.”

The CMLS President said that none of the government labs had a gene sequencing machine and that only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura conducted those tests. The university only sequenced a very limited number of samples and the government had gagged academics, thus preventing the general public from knowing what the university had discovered. Kumudesh said that a gene sequencing test would cost only about Rs. 10,000.

“Again, this is not a financial problem. The University never studied samples collected countrywide. We have told the government from last year that, if the government labs are given facilities, we can do comprehensive gene sequencing within a month. We have also given a proposal on how we can increase daily PCR testing to 75,000. The government has allocated some funds, but again the Ministry is not doing the needful,” he said.

Sri Lankans had controlled three COVID-19 waves by making great sacrifices. However, those in charge dropped the ball at the tail end of each wave, Kumudesh said, flaying senior Health Ministry officials for making illogical claims that made people lose faith in the system.

“Earlier this week, a journalist asked a senior Health Ministry official whether policemen, who scuffled with protesters near Parliament, should also be placed under quarantine. The official said that policemen had been given both COVID-19 vaccines. This is ridiculous; you can get the virus even if you get both jabs. Even those who have taken both jabs have to adhere to health guidelines. If they are immune to the virus, the Health Ministry should mention this in their guidelines.”

 

 



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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused

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By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.

 

 

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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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