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Health officials warn of possible spike in COVID-19 cases

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ECONOMYNEXT – The recent drop in COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka has come to a halt and an increase in cases  have been reported in several parts of the island, health officials said, warning of a possible rise in patient numbers in the near future.

“We have seen caseload increases in Colombo excluding the Colombo Municipal Council area, Gampaha, Anuradhapura, Galle and Matara districts as well,” Sri Lanka Public Health Inspectors Union (PHI) Chairman Upul Rohana told EconomyNext.

Numbers are also increasing in the North Western and Southern provinces, he said, though no significant changes have been detected in the hill country or in the Northern Province yet.

Rohana said the numbers being reported are of cases that got positive due to public gatherings and travels right after the restrictions were lifted without adhering to the health guidelines.

“Even if we impose restrictions, the virus is inside the province. Travelling is fine if people follow the guidelines, but the problem is that they don’t,” he said.”

“We don’t expect a rise in the death toll by December because of vaccination, but there may be a rise in cases.”

The current increase is not high, but it can be considered the start of a major increase, said Rohana, noting that the present numbers are of those who got infected around the time restrictions were lifted.

“The result of the past two long weekends will come in another two weeks. It can increaseto an unexpected number,” he said.

Deputy Director of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said people coming from different areas for gatherings and then returning to their respective areas must be avoided.

“We had a similar situation last May and April. After the second wave was contained, public movement increased and the situation turned. Then came the Delta variant and that accelerated the spreading,” Herath told  reporters on Friday (05).

At a meeting held at the Ministry of Health Friday morning, Herath had called for increasing Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).

“This programme has been under way for a long time now. The RAT test is being done for suspected patients coming to hospital. Random RAT tests also will continue,” Herath said.

Meanwhile, PCR testing in Sri Lanka has seen a drop over the past few weeks. Explaining this, Chief Epidemiologist Dr Samitha Ginige said conducting more PCR tests covering the population is not productive.

“When we do a PCR test of a patient, even after four to six months, it can come back positive. But that doesn’t mean that person poses any threat, to close contacts or society at large because the virus does not spread from them,” he said.

Ginige said after taking all the facts in to consideration, the advisory committee has changed the testing policy to meet the requirements of the current situation in identifying patients.

He said apart from doing RAT tests island wide, any person suspected to have symptoms should visit the nearest hospital or Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office and do an RAT test.

“We ask anyone who has symptoms to go to a hospital for a check-up. All MoH offices also do RAT tests on a daily basis. If anyone gets positive, then they will be directed to a treatment centre. If there are people that do have symptoms but doesn’t get positive from RAT test, t hey will be subjected to PCR tests to understand their condition,” said Ginige.



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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil

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Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses

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Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP

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World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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