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Coronavirus spread slows down but lowering the guard could lead to a resurgence




The transmission of the coronavirus within the community has witnessed a marginal drop largely due to the quarantine curfew enforced, health officials said, while warning that failure to adhere to preventive guidelines when travel restrictions are relaxed could see a resurgence of the pandemic.

The spread of the virus has slowed down in terms of numbers testing positive, Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, Deputy Director of the Medical Research Institute (MRI) acknowledged, but cautioned that the drop didn’t mean the worst was now over.

Covid-19 positive cases topped 400 following the eruption of the Peliyagoda fish market cluster. However, by Thursday (November 5) patients testing positive for the deadly virus dipped to 383.

The Epidemiology Unit said the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Sri Lanka stood at 12,570, with 6,623 recoveries and 5,748 patients still under medical care as at November 5. The coronavirus death count has climbed to 29 with five more deaths reported.

Most of the patients testing positive are close contacts of the Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the overall pandemic situation has improved with less positive cases reported, Dr. Bandara said that statistics reflect a slow down, but a lot more needs to be done in terms of effectively tackling the threat.

“Without public cooperation, we will be back to square one”, he stressed.

Meanwhile, head of Sri Lanka Association of Government Medical Laboratory Technologists, Ravi Kumadesh, charged that under a new mechanism adopted by the Health Ministry, PCR tests are now being done only as a “last resort”.

The number of PCR tests have been drastically reduced, he claimed, while adding that even positive cases are not immediately admitted to hospital. They are instead placed under quarantine in centres.

The whole truth about the fresh outbreak of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka has been swept under the carpet, Kumadesh alleged. “They are blaming the people for not adhering to preventive guidelines, but not telling them the factual ground situation”.


Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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