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



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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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic



Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds



By Dinasena Ratugamage


Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.



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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle



It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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