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JHS wants origin of current wave of COVID-19 revealed

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Health Secy: ‘Will announce cause once established’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) spokesperson Nishantha Warnasinghe yesterday (18) said that both the government and the Brandix apparel manufacturer owed an explanation to the public how the corona eruption took place in the Minuwangoda garment factory of the company.

 The former Western Province PC member said the Brandix eruption shouldn’t continue to be a mystery.

 Warnasinghe alleged that the government seemed reluctant to go the whole hog though Army Chief Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera publicly declared that the 39-year-old Brandix supervisor tested positive at the Gampaha government hospital after she was admitted there on Sept 30 hadn’t been the cause of the crisis.

 Now it would be the responsibility of the government to inquire into the circumstances leading to the devastating corona eruption, Warnasinghe said, urging health authorities to set the record straight.

 Responding to The Island queries, Warnasinghe said that soon after the Brandix eruption, the blame was on the worker tested positive at the Gampaha hospital. However,  Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi, Lt. Gen. Silva and Dr. Samaraweera cleared the woman concerned, Warnasinghe said.

 “People have a right to know how the second wave erupted,” the JHU spokesman said, pointing out that both print and electronic media raised several pertinent questions, particularly the return of Sri Lankans attached to the Brandix facility in Andhra Pradesh and their families in three chartered flights on June 25, Aug 8 and Sept 22 and were accommodated in hotels.

 Pointing out that the Oct 14 issue of The Island in an article titled ‘Brandix eruption’ quoted the company as having revealed the hotels where the returnees had been accommodated before they underwent the14-day self-quarantine, Warnasinghe asked whether anyone of them tested positive.

 Warnasinghe said that the government should raise the issue with the company if it hadn’t done so already. The failure to establish the real cause may result in cover-up accusations directed at the government, Warnasinghe said, pointing out that the GMOA recently demanded Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera to reveal the cause of the epidemic.

 Warnasinghe also questioned the procedures followed in allowing Brandix to operate charter flights from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh to Mattala airport. In addition to Brandix, was any other Sri Lankan or foreign company allowed to bring in staff based in other countries, Warnasinghe asked.

 Responding to another query, Warnasinghe said that the possibility of negligence causing the second wave couldn’t be ruled out.

 The government delayed issuing the relevant gazette till the eruption of the second wave, Warnasinghe said. Emphasizing that the gazette should have been issued soon after the first eruption in March 2020, Warnasinghe demanded why the SLPP administration took so long to issue it. By the time, it was issued on Oct 15 (11 days after declaration of curfew in some parts of the Gampaha police division as a precautionary measure) irreversible damage was caused.

 Warnasinghe pointed out that the Sunday’s announcement that Rs 400 mn had been allocated for those affected due to corona in the Gampaha district revealed the enormity of the problem. The JHU spokesman questioned whether the country had the wherewithal to allocate such large sums against the backdrop of the severe economic slowdown. Remembering how the government was compelled to dole out Rs 5,000 each for those affected countrywide in two consecutive months earlier this year during the first phase of the pandemic when the government had to introduce a lockdown, Warnasinghe warned of dire consequences unless the situation could be brought under control soon.

 Warnasinghe noted that the number of positive cases exceeded the 2,000 mark now.

 Referring to swift action taken by Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, on behalf of the government to obtain compensation to the tune of USD 1.9 mn from the owners of the large crude carrier New Diamond, which caught fire off Sri Lanka’s east coast on September 3, Warnasinghe emphasized the pivotal importance in establishing the cause of the corona eruption. Those responsible should be asked to pay compensation, Warnasinghe said.

 Health Secretary ex-Army Officer Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe yesterday (18) told The Island that they were yet to establish the real cause of the second wave. Retired Maj. Gen. Munasinghe revealed that initially they probed three possible causes though two of them were subsequently ruled out. Dr. Munasinghe said so when The Island asked him whether the government was able to ascertain how the eruption took place. The Health Secretary suggested that The Island clarify it with Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera as the complex process was handled by the Epidemiology unit. The Chief Epidemiologist said that they were yet to reach a final conclusion though the 39-year-old woman could be cleared of causing the eruption.

 

 



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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