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Obstetricians & Gynaecologists urge govt to vaccinate pregnant women ‘as soon as possible’’



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The government should consider vaccinating the 319,000 pregnant women on a priority basis the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG) said yesterday.

Addressing the media in Colombo, President of the SLCOG, Dr. Pradeep de Silva said that ensuring the safety of pregnant women was a top priority. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) had recommended that the risk of not vaccinating pregnant women was much greater than the slight chance of complications, he said.

“Most of these women will be vaccinated, but what we are suggesting is that they be moved to a higher priority,” Dr. de Silva said.

SLCOG had calculated the facilities needed to ensure the safety of pregnant women who develop complications from coronavirus, Dr. de Silva said, adding that 80% of pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 were asymptomatic and out of the 20% who show symptoms, 5% needed specialized attention.

“We need about 50 – 200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10 – 50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four to 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 one pregnant woman passed away on Wednesday due to complications from SARS-CoV-2 and that she has been suffering from a number of Non communicable diseases.

However, 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 dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. The hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women, didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated to them, Dr. Dewolage said.

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

Meanwhile Dr Sanath Lanerolle, Senior Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Castle Street Hospital for Women said that pregnant women should be extremely careful of coronavirus. While most women in their first trimester usually recover from SARS-CoV-2 without any side effects to the mother and child, those in later trimesters can face many complications.

“If a pregnant woman has conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc, if she is obese or over 35, there is a higher risk of complications. If possible pregnant women must work from home, talk to your employer, and try to figure out an arrangement,” he said.

He added that several pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 have been found at the latest wave and that these women show more symptoms. “This is the result of the new variant.

Deputy Director General – Public Health Services Dr. Susie Perera said that they had excluded pregnant women from vaccination so far. Even frontline health staff members who were pregnant were not given the jab. However, given the latest research and the events that are unfolding in Sri Lanka, the Ministry had commenced a discussion on vaccinating pregnant women, she said.



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP



Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.



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1198 lockdown violators arrested



By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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