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Govt. won’t reverse decision to re-open schools on Jan 11 – GL

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (28) said that the government was going ahead with plans to re-open schools on January 11 in areas not isolated due to the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the media at the Waters Edge, Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris, flanked by SLPP National List MPs, Sagara Kariyawasam and Charitha Herath emphasized schools couldn’t be kept closed indefinitely though the pandemic posed a quite a threat.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP said that the decision to re-open schools wasn’t political. The veteran law academic turned politician said that the government in spite of difficulties was making every effort to gradually restore normalcy.

The Education Ministry in consultation with health authorities took the

decision as the government couldn’t allow the epidemic to disrupt countrywide schools, he said.

Based on representations received from various interested parties, Prof. Peiris said that the vast majority of parents wanted schools to re-open. Therefore, the government felt the need to go ahead with planned re-opening of schools.

 Minister Peiris said that Central Province Governor Lalith U. Gamage recently accommodated some students studying in schools situated in areas isolated due to the corona epidemic at the Manikdiwela Madya Maha Vidyalaya.

 The renowned academic here and abroad, while appreciating the Governor’s move said that the ministry, too, could explore the possibility of adopting the same approach in other affected areas.

 Prof. Peiris said that he along with Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera held consultations with medical experts over the last weekend as regards schools re-opening. One-time External Affairs Minister however said that the government wouldn’t be hasty in its decisions not only in respect of education but other sectors as well. But, the government wouldn’t hesitate to take decisions for the wider wellbeing of the population, the minister said, assuring the student population of a cohesive plan to resume schooling.

The minister said that the government was ready to make modifications, if necessary, in case shortcomings were brought to the notice of the Education Ministry.

Assuring that the public would be informed of the schools reopening plan within the next couple of days, Prof. Peiris said altogether the government allocated Rs 105 mn to provide disinfectants and other required items to schools.

 The minister also appreciated the support provided by UNICEF and the WHO for the reopening plan. The international community provided equipment required to test temperature in addition to other items, he said.

 Acknowledging that the vast majority of schools were under Provincial Councils, Prof. Peiris said that the Governors had a critically important role to play in the absence of the Provincial Councils.

 Prof. Peiris assured parents that everything possible would be done to protect the student community. Contrary to criticism, schools re-opening plan was feasible and could be implemented with the support of all stakeholders.

 He also pointed out how the government conducted Year 5 Scholarship examination and the GCE Advanced Level examination in Nov-Dec though many expressed doubts about the Education Ministry’s efforts. The ministry with the support of the health and security authorities made arrangements even for several hundred Covid-19 affected students to sit for the GCE AL examination, the minister said.

The minister urged parents and authorities of respective schools to meet during the January 4-11 period to make the required arrangements.

Underscoring the importance of reopening primary sections of schools, Prof. Peiris said that the student population could be divided into two and one allowed to attend classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the rest on Tuesday and Thursday.

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

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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

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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

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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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