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China accuses US of politicising global response to COVID-19



The recent U.S. Intelligence Report on COVID-19 Origins has the ugly agenda of politicising the global response to COVID-19 when unity and cooperation is key, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong said yesterday, issuing a statement.

He said that on August 27, a report on COVID-19 origins was hastily released by the U.S. intelligence agencies.

“It took them 90 days to cook this up after an executive order from its President. As predicted, this report couldn’t reach any conclusions, and failed to satisfy the White House’s tireless intention to incriminate China. The only result of this so-called “scientific” report is to make Washington’s circus show and its ugly hidden agenda exposed to all,” he said.

Given below is the statement in full: “The domestic agenda for the U.S. blaming China is to cover its big failure and chaos in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the only superpower with less than 4.3% of the world’s population and the richest medical resources, the U.S. surprised us with over 39.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, accounting for 18% of the global total, and more than 639,000 deaths, around 14.2% of the world. While being incapable of containing the pandemic, the U.S. politicians choose to point fingers at China, fabricating lies, instigating populism and racial hatred, to cover up their failure and shirk their responsibility. We solemnly advise the U.S. that to blame others will not save lives of American people, but only amplify its own incompetence. Facing the grave doubts from its own people and the whole world about its poor governance, the only way out for the U.S. Administration is to uphold science and solidarity fighting against the pandemic.

“The international agenda for the U.S. blaming China is to defame and suppress China by COVID-19 politicisation. Some U.S. politicians obsessed with cold-war mindset become more and more anxious and bewildered when witnessing China’s rapid peaceful growth, in particular China’s successful containment of the pandemic and fast resumption of all work and production. Therefore, out of self-created suspicion, they make a mountain out of a molehill to label China as “the strategic competitor” and “the greatest threat” to the U.S., and hysterically politicise the pandemic and demonise China. They are forcing the scientific origins-tracing into an undisguised political instrument against China, clamouring “accountability”, “compensation” even “boycotting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics”, etc. However, the U.S. will never make it even though they repeat their lies for a thousand times. Thus far, over 80 countries including Sri Lanka have written to the WHO Director-General to openly voice their opposition to politicising origins-tracing.

“Furthermore, the Biden administration desperately blames China with an intention to distract its huge defeat in Afghanistan. The White House and its intelligence community made repetitious misjudgment and wrong decisions, which only leads to a hasty withdrawal and a big failure, leaving Afghanistan abandoned, all its allies betrayed, and the whole world shocked. In the face of domestic fires of sharp criticism and some calls for President Biden and his main aides to resign, the White House and its intelligence agencies are in dire need of shifting spotlight to save their face and future. That explains why the U.S. intelligence community had no choice but to rush out such a useless report against common sense.

“I would like to point out that it is sheer nonsense for the U.S. to ignore the authoritative WHO-China joint study and accuse China of not being transparent or cooperative on coronavirus origins-tracing. It is actually the U.S. that is not being transparent, responsible and cooperative on this issue. The U.S. has been refusing to respond to the international community’s reasonable doubts on the Fort Detrick biolab and the over 200 overseas bases for biological experiments, trying to cover up the truth and avoid being held responsible. The onus is on the U.S. to give the world an answer.

“We earnestly admonish the U.S. to immediately stop doing anything that poisons the atmosphere for international cooperation on origins-tracing or undermines global solidarity against the pandemic, and return to the right track of science-based origins-tracing and cooperation in the face of the pandemic. For lives’ sake, do something good for its own pandemic control and the global anti-pandemic collaboration.”

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Inter-provincial travel ban to be lifted on Oct. 31



Flagrant violations largely ignored during restrictions

ECONOMYNEXT – The ongoing inter-provincial travel ban will be lifted on October 31, the national COVID-19 prevention task force said, despite social media accounts – and sometimes pictures – of people openly flouting the ban.

The restriction was imposed in conjunction with an island-wide lockdown, officially known as a quarantine curfew, that the government declared on August 20 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Despite the lockdown being relaxed on October 01 as cases began to drop, the inter-province travel restriction has remained, at least on paper.

Critics, however, claim that people have been traveling – some even going on trips – around the country blatantly ignoring the ban, despite President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordering the authorities to strictly enforce it from October 21.

“After a discussion among the task force on Friday (23), with the permission of the president, it was decided to lift the travel ban from 4am October 31,” Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva told reporters on Friday.

Silva, who heads the national COVID-19 task force, said all public transportation services will also restart on October 25 and will operate according to health guidelines.

Health officials have joined the chorus of voices lamenting the apparent lax nature of the inter-provincial travel ban. The public does not seem to follow health guidelines increasing the risk of another wave of the epidemic, they have said.

“The behaviour of the public is not satisfactory,” Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr Ranjith Batuwanthudawa told the privately owned Derana network in an interview.

“The public did not follow the guidelines in the first long weekend after restrictions were relaxed. It can again increase the number of patients to a level the health sector cannot cope with,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Gen Silva said the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered as a booster dose for frontline workers in the health, military, police and tourism sectors starting November 01.

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North, East see highest attendance of students, teachers: Dinesh



ECONOMYNEXT – Northern and Eastern provinces saw the highest attendance of students, teachers, and principals when schools were reopened for the first time in six months, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told parliament on Friday (22).

Classes from grades 1 to 5 recommenced at 5,059 schools with fewer than 200 students on Thursday (21) amid an ongoing strike by teachers’ trade unions which is set to finally end next Monday (25).

Minister Gunawardena said the government was able to open around 98 percent of the targeted schools.

“Sixteen percent of students attended schools across the country, while 26 percent of teachers who signed their attendance,” Minister Gunawardena told parliament.

Principals showed up to work at 69 percent of schools with fewer than 200 students, in the island’s north, while 52 percent of teachers and 21 percent of students were present on Thursday, he said.

In the Eastern province, 67 percent of principals, 45 percent of teachers, and 39 percent of students went back to school on Thursday, he added.

In contrast, schools in the Southern and Western provinces saw lower levels of attendance from principals, teachers, and students, the minister said.

“We believe everyone will support the reopening of schools without any party or colour difference,” Minister Gunawardena said.

Trade unions are not fully onboard the government’s proposed solution to their long-standing grievance of salary anomalies.

The three-month-long strike, one of the longest trade union campaigns in Sri Lanka’s history, has deprived students of their only mode of distance learning in pandemic times: online education.

It is still uncertain if all principals will report to duty on Monday as some principals’ trade unions have said some of their demands including car permits and a mobile phone allowance have not been addressed yet.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike for the 99th day running on October 15 when they said they would start work from October 25.

The government proposed to increase their salaries in a four-year strategy, but upon the rejection of that proposal, the government later proposed to give the increments in two installments. The unions rejected this, too, and continued the strike, demanding that their salaries be increased in one go.

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Foreign Minister to launch Lanka-UK chamber of commerce in London



by Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Foreign Minister Prof G. L. Peiris is scheduled to be in London this week starting from tomorrow (25) for a series of events including the launching the Sri Lanka-UK Chamber of Commerce, diplomatic sources said

During his stay in London from Monday to Thursday (28), Prof Peiris is to meet his UK counterpart Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss and Members of the Houses of Parliament and Lord Naseby.

Sources said that it would be Prof Peiris’ first visit to London after assuming the duties as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The launch of the Sri Lanka – United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to be presided over by HSBC bank. Lord Davies of Abersoch, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Sri Lanka and a host of invitees including the representatives of the London Stock Exchange and De La Rue. The new Chamber is to be registered with both British Chamber of Commerce and the UK Companies House.

Prof Peiris is expected to complete his London visit on Thursday (28) and then to proceed to Glasgow to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which is scheduled to begin next Sunday (31).

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