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GMOA raises alarm over COVID-19 deaths increasing rapidly



By Rathindra Kuruwita

As three COVID-19 persons died yesterday (27) while undergoing treatment at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and the National hospital, Colombo the Government Medical Officers’ Association warned that the number of deaths would increase rapidly if the government didn’t take immediate action.

The 17th COVID-19 related death was that of a 41-year-old resident of Ja-Ela, who was also undergoing treatment for cirrhosis. He died at the IDH.

The other two, an 87-year-old woman from Slave Island and a 19-year-old person from Keselwatte passed away while undergoing treatment at the National Hospital. The woman had been admitted to the hospital for a leg injury. PCR tests conducted following their deaths proved that they were COVID0-19 positive.

GMOA’s Dr. Haritha Aluthge told The Island that they had warned of an increase in the number of COVID-19 related deaths for some time. The inputs of health sector experts had not given the attention they deserved, he said.

“On Monday, we warned that it was a complex situation and we are in front of a serious crisis. We are detecting COVID-19 positive cases by the hundreds now each day and people do not believe that we have not reached the community spread level. With these deaths people will panic more.”

Hospitals were being overwhelmed and the deaths would rise exponentially if the current trend continued, he said. “If we don’t make a course correction, we can expect a large number of deaths in the next two months. We have identified five districts at risk; they are Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Kegalle and Kurunegala; some other districts are also at risk. We have proposed that the borders of these five districts be secured. We have also told this to the Presidential Task Force.”

On Monday, Head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama warned that if the situation was not brought under control urgently, the people who were prone to complications with pre-existing conditions would be in danger.

“This is what we saw on Tuesday. Those who died either had a pre-existing condition or were old. We have a lot of people with non-communicable diseases in this country. That is why health professionals have been urging those in power to take steps to curb NCDs.”



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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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