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Health authorities fear spike in cases as Omicron spread accelerates

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ECONOMYNEXT – With community spread of the Omicron variant showing some acceleration, Sri Lanka’s health authorities fear a spike in daily COVID-19 cases in mid January, as officials warn that “irresponsible behaviour” could lead to severe consequences.

The last four weeks saw over 50 cases of Omicron detected in the island nation across a number of districts, prompting the authorities to declare community spread.

Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath has called for strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols and precautions.

“Omicron is in the community. If the spreadis accelerated, Sri Lanka will see its cases numbers rise the way they did in Europe,” Herath told reporters on Wednesday (05).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days. Rapid increases in the incidence of cases can be seen in a number of countries, including those where the variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

“Irresponsible behaviour on the part of the public can increase the severity of the situation,” said Herath.

“No one can be forced to take the vaccine. But if there is no support from the public, who will end up facing the consequences? If the country goes back to a lockdown situation, the economic hit will be more severe than it is now,” he said.

Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Chairman Upul Rohana said on Tuesday (04) that Omicron cases were detected in multiple districts in the first week of the new year.

“It’s only been one week into the new year and we have identified Omicron patients from all over the country. The variant is clearly spreading island wide at an accelerated pace,” said Rohana.

“In the next two weeks many will contract the variant,” he warned.

The union leader said a majority of the Omicron patients so far have not been vaccinated, have only taken one dose of a vaccine, or have not taken the booster dose even where they were eligible for the shot.

“We urge the public not to postpone vaccination. Get your jab at the right time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Medical Specialists raised concern over the availability of medical facilities in the event of a rise in cases given the spread of Omicron.

The association said with more medical personnel being infected with the virus, the virus can further affect Sri Lanka’s health care system.

Blaming Sri Lanka’s devastating third wave on disregard for health protocols in April 2021, the association said history can repeat itself with shops and bars being packed with people on December 31 as COVID-19 restrictions were further relaxed by the government.

With only a 25 percent or 4.14 million receiving the booster shot so far, the association said Sri Lanka’s health authorities must insist on health protocols being strictly followed.



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Canadian declaration of ‘Tamil genocide’ may influence European parliaments, EU – Maj. Gen. (retd.) Gallage

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‘Counter lies, or face consequences’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says controversial Canadian House of Commons declaration that Tamil genocide took place in Sri Lanka may influence many Western parliaments as well as the EU.

The Gajaba Regiment war veteran said that the recognition of 18th May, the day Sri Lanka defeated terrorism as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day was an affront to Sri Lanka.

The ex-combat officer said that the government owed an explanation without delay. Perhaps, Sri Lanka parliament should remind Canada of deaths of hundreds of native residential school students, who had been literally snatched from their families, the retired officer said, adding that it would be interesting to see whether any political parties, civil society groups or those who issue statements against Sri Lanka at the drop of a hat would question the Canada’s gruesome past. So far unmarked graves of more than 1000 native children have been found on the grounds of such schools run till the mid-1990s, the retired Major General said.

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, son of veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree presented the motion on Wednesday (18). “Canada becomes the first national parliament in the world to recognize May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day,” tweeted, Anandasangree, the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park.

The motion states that “this House acknowledges the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and recognizes May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”.

The House of Commons unanimously accepted the motion.

Gallage alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political will to counter the campaign against the country. Acknowledging the current political-fiscal -social crisis caused by decades of economic mismanagement, he warned that the Canadian declaration would have disastrous consequences. Would the government care to examine how interested parties could exploit the Canadian condemnation of Sri Lanka? Gallage asked.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in the third week of May 2009.

Gallage questioned the responsibility on the part of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries for Sri Lanka’s failure to meet the challenge.

Anandasangaree brought forward the motion on the 13th anniversary of the annihilation of the LTTE fighting cadre at Mullivaikkal.

Retired Maj. Gen. said that those who had failed to throw a lifeline to the LTTE as the military brought the war to a rapid conclusion worked overtime for the realization of the Canadian project.

Responding to another query, Gallage said that declaration of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against itself at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in early Oct. 2015 under the yahapalana regime.

Gallage recalled how Australia denied him a visa during yahapalana administration though there hadn’t been specific war crimes allegations against him. Australia also found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

Established in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Gallage said that the Parliament should respond to the Canadian House of Commons declaration on Tamil genocide. The former senior officer who was always in the thick of combat reiterated that unless tangible action was taken immediately the Canadian motion would cause irreparable damage. The Tamil Diaspora would exploit their success with Canadian political parties to pressure other countries, Gallage said, the coming Geneva sessions would be quite a challenge.

He urged the current military top brass to make representations to the government as regards the damning unfair Canadian indictment of Sri Lanka. “We should ask Canada to share with us information on the basis its Parliament reached conclusion that genocide took place here. The very basis of their declaration is questionable,” Gallage said, adding that Sri Lanka should officially inform Canada of the Indian intervention that led to the deaths of thousands, both before and after the deployment of the Indian Army (1987-1990), killing of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE female suicide cadre and the sea borne attempt to assassinate the Maldivian President in 1989. “We should set the record straight. We should use wartime British High Commission cables now in the public domain to counter lies,” the Gajaba Regiment veteran said.

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Some MPs seek hotel accommodation to attend parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday that a group of MPs had requested that they be provided hotel accommodations for them to attend Parliament sittings.

Speaker Abeywardena said that the request had been made due to the prevailing fuel crisis.

The Speaker said that some MPs who travelled from outstations were unable to return home due to the fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they have requested me to book a hotel for them to stay in Colombo to attend Parliament proceedings,” he said.

The Speaker’s clarification came as reports of MPs being provided fuel at a subsidised rate were raised in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that fuel had not been given at subsidised rates to any MP.

Many government MPs also lost life possessions as their houses were looted and torched by marauding mobs early last week.

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Elder brother says MR should have known when to quit politics

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SLPP MP and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that his younger brother former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should have retired from politics after concluding his second term as President.

“Nearly 50 years of his outstanding political achievements and journey have been lost at present,” he said.

“If we become greedy for power and positions then we face such consequences as we see today,” he said.

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