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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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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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