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Don’t be overconfident after receiving jab, SLMA tells public

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The public must not think vaccination ensures their safety one hundred percent, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) President, Dr Padma Gunaratne says.

Dr. Gunaratne said so addressing the media on Tuesday. She said the National Hospital, Colombo, treated about 200 new cases a day and about 100 of those needed oxygen support, and the current situation was similar to that before the imposition of travel restrictions.

Dr. Gunaratne said that the silver lining was the rapid pace of the vaccination drive. Sri Lanka was getting the best vaccines used in the world and the vaccination was done at a very rapid pace. However, Sri Lankans should not fully depend on the vaccine alone and should not think that they could lead normal lives after inoculation.

On the flipside, Sri Lanka was now dealing with the Delta variant, which was more contagious, the SLMA President said.

“30% of the cases detected in Colombo have delta, which is highly contagious and soon this percentage could rise to 50. Soon Delta will become the most dominant variant in the country. The question is how long will this take? Prof. Neelika Malawige’s lab doesn’t have the capacity to conduct countrywise studies. They can sequence 200 samples a month in selected areas. So, we can’t say how many Delta cases are there in SL but when we look at the world we know how fast Delta spreads,” Dr. Gunaratne said.

“Some people think that the country will be safe within eight weeks because of the pace of the vaccination. This too is a myth, she said. The vaccines will give some protection, and is our long term solution”, Dr. Gunaratne said.

For full protection of a vaccine, one needed to take both jabs and in Sri Lanka only 8% of people had got both jabs. Therefore most were not secure. 25% of people had got at least one jab but it was not enough, she said.

“One needs to get a second jab and then it will take two more weeks for antibodies to form. However even if we get both jabs, we can get the disease and then spread. There will always be new variants as well. However, we are very pleased with government fast tracking vaccination,” she said.

Given that the fourth wave would be dominated by the Delta variant elderly and people with chronic diseases should be especially vigilant, Dr. Gunaratne said. All elderly persons and those with chronic diseases should get vaccinated.

“However, even if they get both jabs they are still in high risk categories. We urge them to be safe. Don’t get caught in the fourth wave,” she warned.

Dr. Gunaratne said that the number of actual daily cases should be around 10,000 because on an average 50 people were dying. Sri Lanka needed to focus on selected restrictions, vaccination and implementing health guidelines to ensure lives were protected while the economy was kept humming.

“People are against heavy restrictions, they want to work. But when we open up and try to hit a balance, numbers will go up. We have to tell people this. The people must know the government has opened up sectors not because there is 100% safety but because the government knows the importance of livelihood. People should know that weddings, religious places, cinemas can lead to clusters. They must be careful when they are in crowds,” Dr. Gunaratne said.

Given that the number of cases will rise, the government must strengthen the initiatives to treat asymptotic cases at home. If asymptomatic cases can be treated at home, there will be enough room for moderate and serious cases in hospitals. Also, the COVID-19 cases with chronic diseases must be hospitalised, she said.

“Some people tell us that most developed countries are opening up and ask us why we aren’t opening up. They say that Singapore is open. We are not like Singapore that can do as many PCR tests as they want, they can trace contacts easily and fast through apps and they have other ways of managing the virus. We don’t have that here. So we have to be more careful,” Dr. Gunaratne said.



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Pakistan’s ex-president, Pervez Musharraf dies aged 79

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(picture BBC)

BBC reported that Pakistan’s former president General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has died aged 79.

The former leader – who was president between 2001 and 2008 – died after a long illness, a statement from the country’s army said.

He had survived numerous assassination attempts, and found himself on the front line of the struggle between militant Islamists and the West.

He supported the US “war on terror” after 9/11 despite domestic opposition.

In 2008 he suffered defeat in the polls and left the country six months later.

When he returned in 2013 to try to contest the election, he was arrested and barred from standing. He was charged with high treason and was sentenced to death in absentia only for the decision to be overturned less than a month later.

He left Pakistan for Dubai in 2016 to seek medical treatment and had been living in exile in the country ever since.

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The 75th Anniversary of National Independence celebrated under the patronage of President, PM

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(picture Presidents Media)

The 75th National Independence Day celebration was held under the theme “Namo Namo Mata – A Step towards the Century”, under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Saturday morning (04) at Galle Face Green.

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Lanka sovereign bond holders write to the IMF

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ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka’s bondholders have written to the International Monetary Fund expressing their willingness to engage in debt re-structuring talks but also raising matters related to the domestic debt re-structuring and economic assumptions and forecasts.

The group, styling itself as the “Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the Bondholder Group) has written last week to the IMF Managing Director from New York said inter alia that the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

The letter concluded with the paragraph: Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

Following is the text of the letter:

NEW YORK, Feb. 3, 2023

Dear Managing Director Georgieva,The Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the “Bondholder Group”) acknowledges the Sri Lankan authorities’ engagement with their official creditors towards a resolution of the current crisis and restoration of debt sustainability.

The Bondholder Group further acknowledges that such engagement has recently resulted in the Government of India (in its letter to the IMF, dated January 16, 2023 (the “India Letter”)) delivering letters of financing assurances, committing to support Sri Lanka and contribute to its efforts to restore debt sustainability by providing debt relief and financing consistent with the IMF Extended Fund Facility Arrangement (the “IMF Programme”) and the IMF Programme targets indicated in the India Letter.

Similarly, the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

Based on the limited information available to us at this time, including information contained in the India Letter, we understand that the IMF Programme’s debt sustainability targets are identified as

(i) reducing the ratio of public debt to GDP to 95% by 2032,

(ii) limiting the central government’s annual gross financing needs to GDP ratio to 13% in the period between 2027 and 2032, and central government annual foreign currency debt service at 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032 and

(iii) closing of the external financing gap.

The Bondholder Group hereby confirms it is prepared to engage, through its Steering Committee, with the Sri Lankan authorities in restructuring negotiations consistent with the parameters of an IMF Programme and the targets specified therein (the “IMF Programme Targets”), which the Bondholder Group understands to be the targets identified in the India Letter; it being recognized that these negotiations will necessarily be further informed by the receipt of the forthcoming DSA.

We would note that the finalization of an agreement will also be subject to the satisfaction of the following conditions:

The central government’s domestic debt – defined as debt governed by local law – is reorganized in a manner that both ensures debt sustainability and safeguards financial stability.

Assuming that annual gross financing needs should not exceed 13% of GDP in the period between 2027 and 2032, whilst allowing for central government annual foreign currency debt service to reach 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032, domestic gross financing should therefore be limited at 8.5% of GDP for the period 2027-2032.

While we recognize that the determination of the economic assumptions underpinning the IMF Programme Targets is ultimately the responsibility of the IMF and that the overall design of the IMF Programme is one that is negotiated between the IMF and Sri Lanka, it is nevertheless important that the Bondholder Group has the opportunity to express its views on both the economic assumptions underpinning these IMF Programme Targets and the adequacy and feasibility of the adjustment efforts contemplated under the IMF Programme.

When considering any restructuring proposal that is made to the Bondholder Group, it is the Bondholder Group’s intention to take into consideration the extent to which the economic assumptions and the adjustment efforts are consistent with these views.

Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

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