More countries are tightening their travel restrictions after a new coronavirus variant was identified in South Africa earlier this week, said a BBC dispatch yesterday.
It said that the UK, Singapore and Japan are among those rushing in stricter quarantine measures and banning flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries.
The BBC story said: The EU is proposing to ban flights from the region across the whole bloc.
Scientists still have much to learn about the variant, but say they are very worried about it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists work to determine how transmissible it is.
The variant is very different to the others that have emerged so far. Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means vaccines, which were designed using the original strain from Wuhan, may not be as effective.
The new variant is yet to be given a more memorable name, like Delta or Beta, and right now is known as B.1.1.529. The WHO is expected to name it on Friday, and announce whether it is a variant of concern or just a variant of interest.
The WHO says so far fewer than 100 sample sequences have been reported. Cases have mainly been confirmed in South Africa, but have also been detected in Hong Kong, Israel and Botswana.
The UK’s health minister, Sajid Javid, said on Friday that it is “highly likely” to have spread to other countries.
Most of the cases in South Africa have been from its most populated province, Gauteng, of which Johannesburg is the capital city.
Only about 24% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, which could see a rapid spread of cases there, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), told the BBC on Friday.
In Hong Kong, the variant spread during hotel quarantine between a person who had arrived from South Africa and another hotel guest who tested positive a few days later, the Department of Health revealed. Both were fully vaccinated.
Israel’s PM Naftali Bennett said on Friday it is “on the verge of a state of emergency” regarding the new variant, and that he would “act fast, strong and now”.
One case was detected in a person who returned from Malawi, according to Israeli media reports quoting the country’s health ministry. Another two suspected infections were yet to be confirmed with test results. All three are said to have been fully vaccinated.
The WHO has warned against countries hastily imposing travel restrictions, saying they should look to a “risk-based and scientific approach.”
Nevertheless, an increasing amount of nations including the UK, Japan and the Netherlands have temporarily halted flights from these southern African nations: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Lesotho.
Singapore, Italy, France and Israel are among those who have also placed Mozambique, on their red lists.
The Head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is proposing the whole of the EU put on the “emergency brake” and stop flights from the region.
The EU is already struggling to cope with fresh waves of the virus, and several countries have re-imposed lockdowns and restrictions.
The Czech Republic will ban anyone has has spent more than 12 hours in those nations from entering as of Saturday.
Germany, which is currently going through a fourth wave of infections because of the Delta variant, will allow only Germans to fly into Germany from South Africa as of Friday night, a health ministry source quoted by Reuters news agency said. Even if travellers are fully vaccinated, they will still have to spend 14 days in quarantine.
India has ordered more rigorous screening and testing for travellers arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, local media is reporting.
The flight bans threaten to separate families over the festive season.
Ruth Daines-Slack, 70, had booked to fly from Cape Town to the UK next week for Christmas and her mother’s 100th birthday celebration. She told the BBC she is “beyond devastated” that she will no longer be able to make the trip, adding that the UK’s travel ban is a “knee-jerk reaction”.
The UK was one of the first nations to impose a flight ban, which South Africa’s foreign ministry has criticised as a “rushed decision” made before the WHO has made any announcement on the variant.
NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused
Welikada Prison killings
‘The BASL should make its position clear now’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, says his outfit will soon move the Supreme Court against the acquittal and discharging of Inspector Neomal Moses Rangajiva, the first accused in the Welikada Prison killings.
The civil society activist, in a brief interview with The Island, over the weekend, said that the relatives of those who perished in the violence in the Welikada Prison compound on Nov 09 and 10, 2012, had requested him to pursue this matter.
Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar last Wednesday (12) sentenced to death ex-Welikada Prisons Chief Lamahewage Emil Ranjan over the Welikada killings. He was the second accused in the high-profile case, whereas Rangajiva, at that time attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), was acquitted and released from all charges.
Lawyer Perera said that as the verdict had been given by a Trial-at-Bar, the appeal would have to be made to the Supreme Court. The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court judges Gihan Kulathunga (President), Pradeep Hettiarachchi and Manjula Thilakarathna was unanimous in its decisions.
The Trial-at-Bar said that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the PNB officer beyond reasonable doubt.
Responding to questions, Senaka Perera said that if it hadn’t been a Trial-at-Bar, his group would have moved the Court of Appeal. Senaka Perera explained: “We intend to write to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, in this regard. We are of the view the AG should appeal against the acquittal and discharging of Rangajiva. However, if the AG refrained from doing so, the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners will accept the responsibility.”
In terms of the Trial-at-Bar proceedings, the eight prison inmates who were killed in the incident are Kankanmalage Malinda Nilendra Pelpola alias Malan, Attapattu Sangakkara Nirmala Atapattu, Mohammed Wijaya Rohana alias Gundu, Chinthamani Mohottige Thushara Chandana alias Kalu Thushara, Asarappulige Jothipala alias Ponna Kapila, Harshan Sri Manakeerthi Perera alias Manju Sri, Raigamage Susantha Perera alias Mala Susantha, Devamullage Malith Sameera Perera alias Konda Amila.
However, lawyer Senaka Perera said that altogether 27 inmates had been killed after the deployment of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Army inside the Welikada Prison. According to official records, in addition to 27 deaths, at least 43 other inmates received injuries. The then Prisons Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera informed Parliament of the deaths of 27 inmates.
The then Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakoday said that inmates had triggered violence as the STF was looking for drugs and hand phones inside the prison.
The Attorney General filed indictments against IP Rangajeewa, Lamahewage Emil Ranjan and Indika Sampath, an officer attached to the Prisons intelligence unit under 33 counts, including committing murder, conspiring to commit murder after being members of an unlawful assembly.
The Court proceeded in spite of the third accused Indika Sampath who managed to evade the police so far.
The human rights activist recalled how Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, named a Trial-at-Bar to hear the Welikada case on a request made by Rajaratnam’s predecessor, Dappula de Livera, PC. The latter made the request in late June 2019. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in late May 2021.
The Prisons Department and the Justice Ministry couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for ensuring safety and security of those in their care, lawyer Senaka Perera said. Those who had been remanded and sentenced could be serious offenders and some may even deserve a death sentence but the State shouldn’t under any circumstances resort to extra judicial measures, the public litigation activist said.
Lawyer Senaka Perera said that he believed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should examine the Welikada case and make its position known to the public. “Perhaps, the BASL, too, should consider moving the SC against the acquittal and discharging of the first accused,” the lawyer said.
Lawyer Senaka Perera said that before the former AG made an intervention the progress in investigations had been slow. In fact, real progress was made since 2017, two years after the change of government following the 2015 presidential election, the lawyer said, alleging that the powers that be continuously hindered the investigations.
According to lawyer Perera and other sources, there had been four separate investigations at different levels beginning with the one launched by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) immediately after the Welikada killings. Subsequently the then Prisons Minister the late Chandrasiri Gajadeera named a three-member team to inquire into the Welikada killings. The committee comprising retired High Court judge Bandula Atapattu, retired DIG Gunasena Thenabadu and Prisons Ministry Legal Officer Lalith Andrahannadi produced two reports in Feb 2013 and Nov 2013. There had been two other investigations ordered by the then Prisons Chief P.W. Kodipillai and the Human Rights Commission.
Lawyer Senaka Perera said that the four investigations undertaken during the Rajapaksa administration should be examined. The lawyer emphasized the importance of appraisal of the investigations as the Trial-at-Bar declared that the progress had been made only since 2017.
In addition to those four investigations, there had been another report prepared by the three-member committee comprising retired High Court judge Wimal Nambuwasam, retired Senior DIG Asoka Wijeyatilleke and senior public servant S.K. Liyanage. Appointed on January 22, 2015, less than two weeks after the presidential election, the committee handed over its report to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on June 09, 2015 as the latter appointed it.
Lawyer Perera said that the former Prisons Chief claimed that the inmates after having broken into the Prisons armoury seized weapons, including machine guns.
The activist pointed out that the 2012 incidents were the worst since the 1983 massacre of Tamil terrorist suspects. The public have lost faith in law enforcement authorities and the political leadership regardless of the party that held power, the lawyer said. There couldn’t be better example than how the current dispensation handled the then State Minister for Prisons Lohan Ratwatte’s ‘raids’ on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in September last year.
The report prepared by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena into the incidents involving Ratwatte should be made public as the police were yet to at least record the State Minister’s statement, lawyer Perera said.
China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka
By Anura Balasuriya
China will soon send a shipment of rice to Sri Lanka as a donation, a Ministry of Trade spokesman said.
The donation comes in the wake of the 70 year anniversary of the Sri Lanka – China Rubber Rice pact on 1952.
Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane had discussed the matter recently with a senior Chinese Embassy officia, the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.
“The Chinese Embassy in Colombo is already doing the needful. The Trade Ministry has informed China of the varieties of rice that Sri Lankan consumers like,” the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.
Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP
JVP MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, on Friday (14) day, said investors were discouraged by the continuous downgrading of the country’s credit ratings.
Speaking at an event in Colombo, MP Amarasuriya said import costs had increased as the country was going through a forex crisis. The President’s agricultural policy had been a disaster and that in the coming months, the government would have to import large volumes of food.
Amarasuriya added that Sri Lanka’s relations with other nations had deteriorated and that too would have an adverse impact on the country.
Dr. Amarasuriya said that international rating agencies were independent and that their ratings were very important for investors to make decisions.
“Investors don’t consult Ajith Nivard Cabraal before investing. Besides, in other countries, it is economic experts, not politicians, who become Central Bank Governors,” she added.
NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused
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