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NOCPCO takes stock of situation in wake of resurgence of highly contagious virus

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State Minister of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovation, Dr. Seetha Arambepola at the NOPCO meeting

The National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID- 19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) evaluating the current situation in the wake of resurgence of the highly contagious virus in the country has agreed that the strategies to prevent further spread of the virus needed constant reviewing and close cooperation between health and security officials, army said yesterday.

At a special discussion held Sunday at the NOCPCO, the task force closely reviewed the status quo of the epidemic, current developments and strategies to prevent further spread.

The task force extensively discussed the emergence of new clusters, application of emergency procedures, facilitation of first, second and third contacts to new Quarantine Centres (QCs), management of patients at hospitals and makeshift places, re-evaluation of existing strategies and their repercussions, interconnections between those approaches, etc.

State Minister of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovation, Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Major General Sanjeewa Munasinghe, acting Director General of Health Services and Medical Specialist, Dr. S. Sridharan and a few more stakeholders attended the meeting chaired by the Head of NOCPCO, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva.

At the start of the proceedings, the Army Commander presented a comprehensive account of current developments and fast increase in affected-numbers while elaborating on fast changing patterns of behavior of the emergence of clusters and more positive cases.

The task force members pointed out that strategies of managing affected patients in the wake of emergence of more positive cases at district level as well as admission possibilities that should go hand in hand with quarantining practice of first and second stage contacts should be properly interconnected in order to achieve national objectives at large without causing the epidemic to spread further.

It was also suggested that areas which were of greater relevance and importance be reviewed closely in comparison with new implications in order to get the best results out of such new adoptive methods and strategic applications as relationships with intelligence, service providers, and facilitators at the actual ground level be seen against modern technological accessories available.

The members informed that it should clearly showcase the cooperation that exists between health officials and the Army. Hence, the close evaluation of first and second contacts, self-quarantining process and tracing of such contacts were very much essential in an epidemic of this magnitude.

Participants highlighted the need of such deliberations as often as possible and application of most suitable strategic approaches as and when emergency requirements arose.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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