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MP Rahman ridicules SLN patrols, having allowed foreigners entry via BIA



Spike in Covid-19 cases: SJB blames SLPP for giving false sense of security

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (3) said that the government owed an explanation regarding the Covid-19 explosion now threatening the entire country after repeatedly assuring that the epidemic was under control.

SJB Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahman alleged that the government strategy gave a false sense of security to the public thereby resulting in automatic lowering of the guard. MP Rahman said that those who spoke on behalf of the government played politics with the pandemic.

They created an environment conducive for the people to go on pilgrimages to Kataragama and on holiday to Nuwara

Eliya during Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the MP pointed out.  The live television coverage of various events organized with the participation of artistes, models et al and avurudu beauty pageants deceived the people, the MP said.

The shocking revelation that the government allowed visitors from India in spite of the pandemic there being out of control proved those in power here threw caution to the wind, the former UNP lawmaker said.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Rahman questioned the rationale in the SLN stepping up surveillance at the Indo-Lanka Maritime boundary to prevent illegal immigrants while Indians were allowed in through the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). MP Rahman emphasized that he didn’t have an issue with Indians or people of any other nationality. But, the country was in such a precarious situation, the government couldn’t take things lightly, MP Rahman said.

In the run-up to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the government conveniently reported a far lower number of Covid-19 cases, MP Rahman said, adding that according to statements attributed to officials the situation continued to improve. Against the backdrop of threat posed by a new variant of Covid-19, the government on Feb 14 ruled out a lockdown, MP Rahman said. One-time Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara succumbed to Covid-19 at the IDH on the same day, the SJB spokesman said, adding that the total number of Covid-19 cases was placed at 801 on Feb 14. Lokubandara’s death was among 7 reported on that day, the MP said. Within the next few weeks the situation remained the same though closer to Sinhala and Tamil New Year reported cases dropped as a result of reducing the number of  tests conducted, MP Rahman said.

Rahman said that the government reported 197 Covid-19 cases on April 1, 183 on April 2, 135 on April 3, 122 on April 4, 137 on April 5, 158 on April 6, 190 on April 7, 309 on April 8, 183 on April 9, 268 on April 10, 225 on April 11, 225 on April 12, 185 on April 13, 99 on April 14, 167 on April 15 and 159 on April 16.

The MP said that the government allowed more foreigners in though Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera on April17 said that due to an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among those coming from abroad restrictions were necessary. The SJB spokesman asked whether the government heeded Dr. Samaraweera’s warning. On the day, the Chief Epidemiologist issued the warning, the government reported 204 fresh Covid-19 cases.

The government was so reckless in its Covid-19 strategy, declaration was made about the re-opening of schools in the Western Province as well as the Universities, the MP. However, at the same time the government exploited the deteriorating situation to cancel May Day rallies primarily because the SLPP led coalition was sharply divided over a range of contentious matters, MP Rahman said.

MP Rahman alleged that SLPP members largely depend on rhetoric to skip ongoing debate on deterioration of Covid-19 situation. Referring to a recent media briefing given by the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) and statement issued by Dr. Naveen Zoysa on behalf of the GMOA, MP Rahman said that the country faced an immense challenge. 

Who allowed interested parties to offer quarantine facilities to foreigners when Sri Lankans were arrested for not wearing face masks? MP Rahman asked.

 Rahman urged the government to reveal the outcome of second Covid-19 outbreak in late last year. No less a person than Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, called for a probe on what he called ‘Brandix Cluster,’ the MP recalled. “Let there be an explanation soon on the part of the government,” Rahman said, urging the SLPP to take tangible measures to tackle the situation. MP Rahman said that the second Covid-19 eruption was also discussed in parliament. At one point, an attempt was made to fault Ukrainians over the epidemic eruption, the MP said.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist



By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station



Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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