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Health Minister says SL is a leader in battling Coronavirus

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by Imesh Ranasinghe

Sri Lanka is a leader in battling the Coronavirus compared to many other countries Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told Parliament on Friday as she closed the day-long debate on the current second wave of infections which has engulfed much of the island.

Thirteen districts in the country have reported cases as of today and 609 new patients were traced today with nearly 500 coming from the Peliyagoda Fish market which is rapidly becoming a new epicentre for the second wave. Fishery harbours in Beruwela and Galle also reported Covid positive cases, the Department of Government Information said.

The Minister claimed that no country in the world maintains quarantine centres or does contact tracing of first and second contacts of an infected patient like in Sri Lanka.

She did not answer a question raised by the National People’s Power leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa whether the spread of the disease is not coming from the community.

The Minister’s Parliamentary colleague Prof Tissa Vitharana, a renown Virologist and former head of the Medical Research Institute, however, said that he is of the opinion that the “virus is in the community.”

Wanniarachchi said that within two to three days of finding the COVID cluster in Brandix the Health Ministry issued updated guidelines to the general public to follow in terms of gatherings and day-to-day lifestyles.

She pointed out that she had Gazetted the regulations making them laws.

The Minister said that most COVID positive patients in Sri Lanka asymptomatic and act as “superspreaders” who can spread the virus to a thousand people by just attending one wedding as that particular person does not know that he or she has the virus.

She also said that even if one or two COVID patients were found in a district the virus did not further spread in the district as all the contacts of the patient were identified and directed to quarantine properly.

“We are dealing with a global pandemic. When we found the first few patients we locked down the entire country but depending on the social and economic conditions now we cannot act in that manner,” she said.

She said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has informed the Health Ministry about the availability of new WHO-approved vaccine to treat COVID-19 patients in the near future and ask to prepare the country to receive the said vaccine.

Moreover, she said that the government took the decision based on directions given by expert epidemiologists who have experience and understanding how the world had dealt with the virus.

Further, she said that by the time Sri Lanka found its first COVID-19 patient, the country had only one lab to do PCR tests which was the Medical Research Institute (MRI).

“But by March we established 6 labs and by today these tests are done in 26 labs,” she added.

The Health Minister also said that by January the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) had only 150 beds and by March they were able to increase that to 250 beds but by October they were able to arrange 3500 beds to treat patients in 30 hospitals.

Also, she added that the country has managed to increase the capacity to carry out PCR tests per day from 250 in March to 8,000 today and that there is no shortage of PCR test equipment or PPEs. (ECONOMYNEXT)



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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