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Johnston says govt will plod on with development drive whatever the obstacles thrown by enemies



Dogs might bark but the caravan would move on and in the same way the government would go forward despite obstacles created by the opposition, Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said.

The minister said so during a ceremony at the commencement of the work of the first section of 3,279 precast concrete sections of the Port Access Elevated Highway from Ingurukade Junction to the Colombo Port City, using the precast concrete bridge technology for the first time in the country.

He said: I am so happy and proud that with this project our engineers will have hands-on experience with the latest technology in the world because it is the first time in this country a pre-cast bridge is being constructed as an elevated highway. This project would have been completed several years back had it not been for the 2015 regime change which deprived the people of this country the opportunity to enter an expressway from Hambantota and exit at Galle Face within a couple of hours. This project had been planned and was designed after consultation with the Asian Development Bank in 2014 by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the minister of Ports and Highways. If there was no regime change this expressway would have been in use by the people for years. The Yahapalana regime suspended many projects commenced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa because of their jealousy and hatred towards him. If they did not do so the port city would have been fully functional today. If you can recall the very same machinery which is running the fertilizer issue campaign today was working full time then against the port city project. JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake calculated and convinced people using figures that the sea could not be reclaimed to build the port city even if we use crushed stones from all the rocks in the country. That government suspended the port city project but had to resume its constructions later after giving more acres away from this country’s hold.

 “This is a mega development project which includes not only the elevated highway but also a six lane tunnel route at a cost of Rs 28 billion. We continued to work despite there being many challenges. In the face of covid-19 pandemic this government continued its development work while protecting the lives of people.  We are thankful to the port authority men and women who rendered a yeoman service in maintaining supplies of essential items. We never forget the services by the health workers, labourers as well as police and tri-forces who shouldered the task of keeping development going amidst the pandemic by providing their services without disruption. It was those who did nothing and kept criticising the government like Sajith Premadasa and his men who peddled conspiracy theories. They spent their time finding fault with the President and the government instead of acting as a responsible opposition to help the government to save the lives of the people.

Among those present at the launching ceremony were Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure State Minister Nimal Lanza, Secretary to the Ministry of Highways R.W.R. Pemasiri, Project Director of the Port Access Elevated Highway project and other ministry officials.

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GL explains to UN Special Rapporteur Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare



Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has explained to UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata, Sri Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare and the constructive steps taken by the government to eradicate child labour.

The Minister also elaborated on steps taken to bring our labour laws in line with international standards in a number of areas, including child labour, migrant workers and debt bondage. The Special Rapporteur commended Sri Lanka on the progress made with regard to making Sri Lanka a ‘child labour free zone’.

The UN official called on Prof. Peiris on Friday, 26 November, at the Foreign Ministry.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes but is not limited to issues such as: traditional slavery, debt bondage, forced labour, children in slavery and slavery-like conditions, sexual slavery, forced and early marriages as well as issues faced by migrant workers and foreign labour.

The Foreign Minister outlined that Sri Lanka was conscious of protecting vulnerable labour groups and emphasized that Sri Lanka will continue to cooperate with the United Nations system. He stated that visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders have been helpful in enhancing understanding of the specificities of Sri Lanka’s experiences in related fields as well as in improving domestic processes to be in line with our international commitments.

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More gas explosions



Two women injured

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There were 11 new explosions related to domestic gas cylinders in the 24 hours that ended at 12 noon yesterday. Among the areas these explosions were reported are Agama, Karana, Hungnam, Walasmulla, Kundasale, Katugastota, Dimbula and Giriulla.

Two women have been injured in these latest explosions. In some instances, the gas cooker wasn’t even on when the explosions happened.

Meanwhile, Litro has introduced the hotline, 1311, for the public to make any complaints with regard to their gas cylinders. Once a complaint is received, a team of technicians will arrive and check the cylinder, the company said.

Litro also urged the public not to try any experiments to see if the cylinders are safe.

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Countries tighten travel rules to slow Omicron spread



Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Norway, Ghana confirm first cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant as countries tighten travel rules.

The United States, Japan and Malaysia have announced tighter travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries confirmed their first cases.

Japan and Hong Kong said on Wednesday they would expand travel curbs, and Malaysia temporarily banned travellers from countries deemed at risk, news agencies reported.

Hong Kong added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its travel restrictions while Uzbekistan said it would suspend flights with Hong Kong as well as South Africa. Japan, which had already barred all new foreign entrants, reported its second case of the new variant and said it would expand its entry ban to foreigners with resident status from 10 African countries.

Malaysia temporarily barred travellers from eight African countries and said Britain and the Netherlands could join the list.

In North America, air travellers to the US were set to face tougher COVID-19 testing rules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday that the US would require all air travellers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure.

Currently, vaccinated international travellers can present a negative result obtained within three days from their point of departure. The new one-day testing requirement would apply to US citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Global spread

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said it recorded the Gulf’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in a citizen returning from North Africa.

Nigeria said it had confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant among travellers who had arrived from South Africa in the past week. Ghana and Norway also reported their first cases of the new variant on Wednesday.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said late on Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the Omicron strain, the first reported cases in Latin America. A traveller arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not travelled, had tested positive.

Germany, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, reported that four fully vaccinated people had tested positive for Omicron in the south of the country but had moderate symptoms.

It also reported the highest number of deaths from coronavirus since mid-February on Wednesday, as hospitals warned that the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, above the peak of last winter.

Other countries braced for more cases: Australia said at least two people visited several locations in Sydney while likely infectious and Denmark said an infected person had taken part in a large concert.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”, while advising those unwell, vulnerable or 60 years or over and unvaccinated to postpone travel.

Global health officials have offered reassurances and reiterated calls for people to get vaccinated.

BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke earlier said that laboratory analyses should indicate over the next couple of weeks whether the blood of vaccinated people has sufficient antibodies to neutralise the new variant.

The European Union brought forward the start of its vaccine distribution programme for five-to-11-year-old children by a week to December 13.

Britain, the US and European countries have expanded their booster programmes in response to the new variant.

First reported in South Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the disparity between substantial vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

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