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Inoculation of 12-19 group: ‘Health workers can manage without military involvement’



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) says the civilian health administration is capable of handling the inoculation of those between 12 and 19 years of age.

Its General Secretary Dr. Nalinda Herath on Monday (13) briefed the media on their stand regarding the vaccination of that particular age grouping. Asked by The Island whether the GMOA believed the civilian health administration could handle the vaccination of the student community and those coming within the 12-19 age group, Dr. Herath explained the system in place to meet the challenging task. “Inoculation can be carried out at hospitals countrywide. We have the wherewithal to do so,” Dr. Herath said.

Dr. Herath added that the vaccination of adults and children shouldn’t be compared. The military played a significant role in inoculation of those 30 and above, Dr. Herath said. However, the children should be inoculated under the supervision of medical experts, the top GMOA official said.

According to him, the final decision on the vaccination of those between 12 and 19 as well as re-opening of schools would be taken up at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (17) at the Presidential Secretariat. Dr. Herath said that two committees that looked into the vaccination of children and re-opening of schools, headed by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena would submit their reports to the President on Friday.

Dr. Herath said that the GMOA made representations to the relevant committee regarding prioritising vaccination. “We believe those chronic illnesses and students sitting for OL and AL should be vaccinated before the rest covering 12 to 19 years of age,” Dr. Herath said.

Dr. Herath emphasized that it would be the responsibility of the government to address contentious issues. As the country struggled to cope up with the daunting task of overcoming the raging Covid-19 epidemic, the public shouldn’t be affected by uncertainty, Dr. Herath said.

Asked whether Narahenpita Military Hospital, too, could be used for inoculation of students, Dr. Herath said that relevant authorities could inquire into it.

Responding to questions, Dr. Herath said that the sudden creation of a new category to cover those 20-30 and the inoculation of those coming within that group in the Hambantota district caused a dicey situation. Unwarranted interventions undermined the overall vaccination drive and in some instances caused serious issues, Dr. Herath said. The GMOA official said that there had been instances the decision makers overriding the health administration much to the disappointment of those involved in the Covid fight back.

The GMOA official appreciated the progress made so far with more than half of the population given two doses.

Commenting on the proposed inoculation of those less than 15 years of age, Dr. Herath pointed out that the UK was yet to do so. However, the US initiated the inoculation drive, Dr. Herath said, underscoring the importance of the relevant stakeholders reaching a consensus as quickly as possible on such matters of importance.

He said that the GMOA discussed the vaccination of the student community and the re-opening of schools with health minister Keheliya Rambukwella. The GMOA spokesperson said that they reached consensus on allocating 4mn Pfizer doses for the 12-19 group and this could be finalized once the group chaired by the President met on Friday.

Dr. Herath stressed the importance of school supporting staff and other workers being inoculated soon to facilitate the re-opening.

Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne recently told a media briefing at the Defence Ministry why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought in the military in wake of despicable attempts to sabotage the inoculation drive.

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GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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