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GL: Vaccine no panacea, don’t lower guard

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) warned that vaccines were not the panacea for the unprecedented Covid-19 challenge. Declaring that the government was to receive the first consignment of vaccine on Thursday afternoon, Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP, urged the public to follow health guidelines in spite of the launch of a high profile vaccination programme.

The acute warning was given at the opening day of a well-attended national conference, titled “COVID-19: Impact, Mitigation, Opportunities and Building Resilience” at the BMICH.

The National Science Foundation organised the event. Asserting that there had been what he called a great deal of misinformation, Prof. Peiris said that right decisions could be made on the basis of right information and right direction. Therefore, the people should keep in mind the vaccines available to the world was certainly not a panacea for the crisis. Failure to follow guidelines or in other words if the public lowered their guard there would be a calamity.

However, the availability of vaccines would definitely change the public mindset, the top academic said. The availability of what the Minister called a potent weapon would change the mood of despondency.

India and China have assured free supply of 500,000 and 300,000 doses of anti-Covid-19 vaccines, respectively. The Indian consignment is due today.

Among those present at yesterday’s event were internationally acclaimed Virologist Prof. Malik Peiris, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, WHO representative in SE Asia and State Minister Seetha Arambepola

Over 80 papers on the issues at hand were to be presented, including presentations by internationally renowned scientists of Sri Lankan origin from Europe, Oceania, North America, Africa and Asia.

As Prof. Malik Peiris has asserted that what was needed was to respond to the continuing health emergency in a productive and meaningful manner, which was an essential prerequisite for a multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary approach.

Pointing out that Prof. Peiris also emphasized the unpredictability of the threat, Minister Peiris said: “None of us. No country was prepared for Corona because there was no previous experience at any level. Prof. Malik Peiris quoted a notable French philosopher as having said that nature was going to strike back at an unpredictable time in an unforeseeable manner.

The education minister said: “That is exactly what happened. Not only Sri Lanka, but the entire world has been taken unawares. The crisis is upon us. We have to respond to it swiftly and effectively. We have to innovate. We are in uncharted waters. That is the essence of the challenge.”

“We must have courage. We must have faith in ourselves, Minister Peiris said, pointing out how the Education ministry coped with an extremely dicey situation. The Education Ministry had to take some decisions in that regard, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that there were two ways to respond to an emerging crisis. One could put off everything because things could go wrong. Otherwise, the crisis could be tackled though things could go wrong, the one-time Foreign Minister said.

The minister explained how through measures issues could be dealt with, though particular situations couldn’t be brought under control, totally.

Prof Peiris explained how Year 5 Scholarship examination and the GCE Advanced Level examinations were conducted just weeks after the second Covid-19 eruption in the first week of Oct, 2020 while interested parties warned of catastrophe. The minister said he was warned of serious consequences if he went ahead with countrywide examinations.

Declaring that a successful conclusion of examination wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of all sectors, Minister Peiris said over 362,000 sat the AL examination at 2,900 centres. Among them, nearly 60 answered question papers while in quarantine, the minister said; their results could be released in April, hopefully to pave them to enter Universities by Sept.

The minister also discussed how the ministry commenced the functioning of the school system with Grade 6-11 students except in the Western Province though schools therein were beginning to function, gradually.

Referring to the massive hit on the national economy as a result of Covid-19 disrupting garment trade, tourism and remittances from Sri Lankans working overseas, Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the public sector for facing up to the challenge. The minister explained how some major players in the garment trade, in spite of severe difficulties faced the challenge. They made significant changes to operations as major orders for Personnel Protection Equipment (PPEs) were accepted, the minister said.

 

 



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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