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Dinesh, EU envoy discuss equitable vaccine access among other things

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Sri Lanka, facing a shortfall of over 600,000 Oxford AstraZeneca doses for the second round of inoculation, is awaiting vaccine stocks through the Covax facility. So far, Sri Lanka has received 264,000 doses via Covax but the second delivery is yet to take place.

The WHO, in a statement issued on March 7 in the wake of the delivery of 264,000 doses to Sri Lanka, said that it was part of the first wave of arrivals that would continue in the coming weeks and months; culminating in 1,440,000 doses arriving through May. “The additional doses to cover 20% of Sri Lanka’s population will arrive in the second half of 2021. All these doses are donor-funded and provided at no cost to Sri Lanka,” the WHO said.

The European Union’s (EU) role in the Covax project was discussed when Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Tuesday (18) met EU Ambassador in Colombo Denis Chaibi. The following is the text of the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday: “Ambassadors of the EU based in Colombo called on Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Tuesday 18 May 2021 at the Foreign Ministry, and discussed issues of mutual interest, including EU-Sri Lanka cooperation, and the GSP Plus process.

The Foreign Minister welcomed the multifaceted cooperation existing between Sri Lanka and the EU.  Follow up action on the EU – Sri Lanka Joint Commission Meeting held on 25 January 2021 was also discussed.

Among other issues discussed was the EU’s contribution towards the COVAX facility supporting global efforts to secure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by countries, including Sri Lanka, in the context of the national action plan to inoculate its adult population against the virus.

The Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka Denis Chaibi, the Ambassador of France Eric Lavertu, the Ambassador of Italy Rita Mannella, the Ambassador of the Netherlands Tanja Gonggrip, the Ambassador of Germany Holger Seubert, and the Chargé d’Affaires of Romania Victor Chiujdea participated in the meeting. The State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were also present.”



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

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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

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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

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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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