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COVID-19 jabs can take weeks to work, continued vigilance vital says experts

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ECONOMYNEXT – Vaccination against COVID-19 will help bring the death rate down and minimize severe disease but the jab can take weeks to be fully effective and vaccinated people can still spread the virus as asymptomatic carriers, a leading Sri Lankan microbiologist said.

Neelika Malavige, Professor in Microbiology at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, in a Government Information Department interview urged vaccinated Sri Lankans to stick to health protocols such as masking and regular hand washing.

“No one gets immediate protection right after the jab. It takes about 21 days for the body to produce antibodies after the first dose of AstraZeneca (Covishield). One dose does not provide sufficient protection, which is why we give two,” Malavige said.

Sinopharm also provides considerable protection but only two weeks after the second jab, the professor said. Sri Lanka has decided to give the two doses of the Chinese vaccine four weeks apart.

“In the meantime, you can still get infected and infect others,” she warned.

Taking a new wave of COVID-19 in Singapore as an example, Malavige said vaccinated airport employees were found to have spread the highly transmissible Indian strain of the virus in the city state.

“Everyone at the airport had received the Pfizer jab, so even when they tested positive for COVID-19, they didn’t report severe symptoms. But they still got infected and, as asymptomatic patients, carried the virus into the wider Singaporean society,” she said.

Echoing Malavige, Director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital Dr Ananda Wijewickrama said the primary objective of vaccination is to prevent critical conditions and death.

“People who get the jab can still get infected, but they have a lower chance of developing critical symptoms. It is important to follow health guidelines because we can be vaccinated and still spread it,” he said.

A mutated variant that has only been detected in Sri Lanka suspected to have been mutated from the original COVID-19 virus. The virus has been mainly detected in the Batticaloa district and in the Western Province and was the dominant variant before identifying the UK variant.

According to health authorities, this virus has a lower transmissibility and mortality rate making most of the patients asymptomatic.

Director of Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura Dr Chandima Jeewandara told the privately owned ABC media network that all three vaccines have been proven to be effective against the variants present in the country.

“International research has indicated that the efficacy rate can be changed with these mutations. However, any vaccine that shows an efficacy rate more than 50 percent is considered to be a successful vaccine and all three vaccines are proved to have a higher efficacy rate at the moment,” Jeewandara said.

Jeewandara predicted that Sri Lanka’s ongoing wave of COVID-19, with over 2,500 cases reported a day, will likely be contained by August this year.

“The virus has not changed the way it’s infecting people,” he said.

Vaccination and strict adherence to health protocols will contribute chiefly to containing the spread.

“We should provide at least one type of vaccine to the community.  If the vaccine is being given in your area get it immediately, Wear the mask, keep social distance and avoid any gatherings,” he said.

“The next moth is crucial to Sri Lanka. We expect this wave to be controlled by August,” he added.

Jeewandara said there is no guarantee the virus will disappear. Vaccination is the one strategy to take control of the situation, he added.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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