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Lockdown, not Sinopharm immediate solution – SLMA

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BY Rathindra Kuruwita

Sinopharm vaccine took six weeks to be effective and it did not provide an immediate solution to the current health emergency, President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Dr Padma Sriyani Gunaratne said yesterday.

“With AstraZeneca there is some protection after two weeks, but you need the second dose. However, Sinopharm doesn’t work like that. You are given a second dose in four weeks after the first jab. Protection kicks in two weeks after the second jab. Even if we vaccinate all Sri Lankans this week, it will take six weeks for the vaccines to start working,” she said.

Dr. Gunaratne said that vaccines played a vital role in the fight against the virus in the long term, but the government needed to go for a lockdown to get the situation under control, she said.

“Moreover, we have given two doses of any vaccine to about 1% of the people. This isn’t an adequate number to offer protection to the community. Hopefully, we can speed up vaccination. But this doesn’t help us in the short term. “When people start falling sick in large numbers, it will be impossible to keep factories going even if the government tries to avoid lockdowns.”

Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology – MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva said that in other countries around 2% of COVID-19 cases died. In Sri Lanka the number was at 0.6% because the health sector still had a grip on the situation.

“If we don’t control the situation, health staff will be overwhelmed,” he said.

These views were shared by State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, who said the people must remain indoors for at least two weeks to halt the spread of the pandemic.

“Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients may be in the community and spending too much time outdoors could expose people to the virus,” she warned.



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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