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Medical specialists urge govt to sound WHO on anti-Covid-19 vaccine



While some seek approval for ‘Dhammika Peniya’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

A group of medical specialists has requested Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Pandemic Control Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle to apprise the World Health Organization (WHO) of Sri Lanka’s readiness to use an anti-Covid-19 vaccine approved by it.

The discussion took place close on the heels of Dr Razia Pendse, WHO Representative in Sri Lanka meeting Dr. Fernandopulle. The ministry spokesperson said that they discussed how to provide the vaccine once a decision was made in that regard.

The WHO is yet to issue licence to any of the vaccines produced by various countries.

The group of specialists has emphasized the pivotal importance of reaching a consensus with the WHO in this regard when Dr. Fernandopulle sought opinion as regards acquisition of foreign vaccines touted as Covic-19 cure.

Secretary to the Ministry Dr. Harsha Amal de Silva, Senior Professor of Medicine at the University of Kelaniya Janaka de Silva, Prof. Anuja P. Premawardena also of Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Prof. Arjuna de Silva of Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Prof. Sarath Lekamwasam, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Dr. Ananda Wjewickrema of National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Pradeep Kumarasinghe of the National Hospital and Dr. Bodhika Samarasekera of Gampaha Hospital had participated in the discussion held on Wednesday (23) at the Health Ministry.

At the onset of the meeting, State Minister Fernandopulle emphasized that counter measures in respect of Covid-19 should be taken on a scientific basis. The State Minister said that the Covid-19 should be appropriately tackled as a pandemic. The minister said so at the meeting called to discuss ways and means of tightening control over Covid-19. Dr. Fernandopulle stressed that the ongoing epidemic control project should be based on technical decisions and implemented with the support of the media.

The State Minister called the meeting with specialists in the wake of the high profile government efforts to subject untested, homemade herbal brew ‘ Dhammika Paniya’ for what co-cabinet spokesperson Dr. Ramesh Pathirana called placebo control randomized double-blind clinical trial.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently created a special ministry for Dr. Fernandopulle to step up government efforts against the rampaging virus against the backdrop of the second Covid-19 wave threatening to overwhelm the badly overstretched health sector.

According to the Ministry spokesperson, the discussion covered problems encountered in tackling the disease, direction in the ongoing operations, co-operation between the ministry and medical specialists and ways and means to improve health facilities provided to those living in rural areas and the needy.

The specialists sounded the State Minister on the need to continue with medical education, nursing and laboratory services in spite of the continuing difficulties.

The specialists asserted that the economy could be revived by taking proper measures, including a vaccination project. They appreciated resumption of tourism and the State Minister taking a sensible stand in respect of various proposals. In an obvious reference to Dr. Fernandopulle’s public stand that local remedies should be subjected to proper scrutiny, the specialists commended the minister.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi yesterday (24) directed managers of 16 Economic Centres (EC) to follow specific guidelines in operation of their centres as their failure to do so would cause a catastrophe. Addressing EC managers, Minister Wanniarachchi warned unless strict procedures were followed Covid-19 could spread to the entire country through ECs. The Health Ministry issued a series of specific instructions on running their operations.

Authoritative sources told The Island that immediate were needed to be carried out as regards implementation of a proper vaccination programme once the WHO issued license/licenses taking into consideration a range of factors, particularly the suitability of the selected vaccine. Sources acknowledged that the government hadn’t allocated funds whatsoever through Budget 2021 for covid-19 vaccine.


GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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