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Govt. urged to admit pandemic now at community transmission stage GMOA alleges Epidemiology yet to share data, cause remains a mystery

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Debate on Minuwangoda cluster today

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Academy of Health Professionals and Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals have urged Health Secretary retired Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have requested the Health Secretary to take appropriate measures to deal with the situation instead of trying to prove the pandemic was yet to reach the community transmission stage. In a letter dated Oct 22 to the Health Secretary, they pointed out the continuing shortcomings in the government strategy.

Warning that proper decisions couldn’t be solely made on ‘intelligence strategies’ as done so far, the trade unions urged the government to change its approach or face the consequences. They strongly urged the government to take measures on the basis the corona pandemic was now spreading among communities here.

The warning was given a day ahead of the debate on the country’s unprecedented health crisis in parliament. The GMOA (Government Medical Officers’ Association) spokesperson Dr. Prasad Colombage, in response to The Island query, yesterday (22) said that those concerned were yet to reveal how the second eruption took place. The first corona detection in its second wave was made on Oct 2 and the curfew was declared in selected police areas on Oct 4.

The Committee on Parliamentary Business chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Wednesday (21) put off the scheduled vote on condolence to pave the way for a debate on the corona epidemic. Director, Department of Communication, Parliament Shan Wijetunga said that JVP leader Anura Kuamar Dissanayake called for a parliamentary debate on corona in the wake of SJB leader Sajith Premadasa raising the spread of the corona virus in the country.

GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday (22) said that only the Epidemiology Unit could correctly ascertain status of the corona epidemic as it held relevant data. Dr. Fernando alleged that the Epidemiology Unit hadn’t so far shared the relevant data with those who had been involved in government initiatives against the epidemic. The GMOA is among those deprived of corona data.

While urging all stakeholders not to politicize the issue, the GMOA emphasized the pivotal importance in all extending support to the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Meanwhile, the situation continued to deteriorate further with indications of several smaller corona clusters in the Gampaha district under curfew since 10 pm on Wednesday. Gampaha administrative district consists of 22 police areas. In addition to them, Kuliyapitiya, Giriulla, Narampala, Dummalasuriya and Pannala are under curfew. The police have also isolated several villages in Matugama and Agalawatte areas.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that in addition to the Gampaha district, police areas in Colombo North and Kuliyapitiya Division were under curfew. However, in view of the large number of factories situated in the Gampaha district et al, police headquarters named four officers whom the public could contact in case of emergency. According to DIG Rohana, SSP M.K.R.A. Gunaratne (071-8591605), ASP Thusitha Kumara (071-8591610), SP Palitha Amaratunga (071-8591632) and SSP Niranjan Abeywardena (071-8591574) could be contacted for issues in Kelaniya, Gampaha, Negombo and Colombo North Divisions, respectively.

DIG Rohana explained that those attached to the state and private sector engaged in essential services, including health, harbour, airport, airport and aviation services, electricity, communications and media as well could use their office identity cards as curfew passes. The DIG strongly advised the public not to abuse arrangements made by the government to ensure functioning of essential services under extremely difficult conditions.

Academy of Health Professionals, Joint Front of non-MBBS Health Professionals as well as the GMOA requested the government to act faster with the latter suggesting formulation of guidelines as regards the admission of corona patients.

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There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran

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TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.

Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.

At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.

This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.

Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing.  I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.

English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.

“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.

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Colombo share market gallops to all time highs

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The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.

Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.

“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”

Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.

“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.

“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”

Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.

Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.

Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.

The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.

“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.

The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.

 

 

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Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL

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In small numbers to an extensive region

Pandemic situation in Western Province improves

by Suresh Perera

Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.

“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.

He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.

“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.

It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.

Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.

He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.

“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution

For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.

“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.

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