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‘India’s Covidshield export restrictions won’t affect SL’

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India’s decision to restrict the import of Covidshield vaccine until Indian domestic needs were met would not have a negative impact on Sri Lanka’s vaccination drive, State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana said yesterday.

Prof. Jayasumana said that the government had started the vaccination drive on 29 January 2021 and the second doses had to be given only after 12 weeks. 844, 000 Sri Lankans had been so far vaccinated, he said.

“We have about 400,000 doses left and we can continue the programme till 31 May. By this time, the issues in India would have been sorted out,” the State Minister said.

There will be no ban on exports, though supplies to other countries will be made only after meeting domestic needs, people familiar with developments said.

Meanwhile India’s Live Mint reported that India would focus on its domestic vaccination programme following a spike in Covid-19 cases and the planned expansion of the immunisation drive, and there would be no expansion of vaccine exports.

Supplies to other countries will be made only after meeting domestic needs and that future exports are linked to the ramping up of domestic production capacities.

Indian media reported that several factors are behind the government’s move to slow down vaccine exports, including a need to ramp up the domestic vaccination programme following an increase in the total active caseload after it had touched its lowest mark in mid-February, and the decision to open up the immunisation drive to everyone above the age of 45 from April 1.

The emergence of a double mutation in the Sars-CoV-2 virus in Maharashtra has added to the concerns related to the rise in Covid-19 cases in recent days. With 11.7 million cases, India has reported the highest number of Coronavirus infections after the US and Brazil.

Vaccine manufacturers too have indicated that the current focus is on meeting domestic needs.

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla had tweeted on February 21: “Dear countries & governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, @SerumInstIndia has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best.”

India has so far supplied more than 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, mostly Covishield, to 76 countries. This includes 8.5 million doses provided as grants and commercial supplies of 34 million doses. However, according to data maintained on the external affairs ministry’s website, the last shipments went out almost a week ago to Namibia and Bolivia on March 18.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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