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Owners of small cars driven round the bend due to non-availability of tyres



by Suresh Perera

A shortage of automobile tyres in the market is driving motorists round the bend amidst complaints that dealers still holding stocks have inflated prices in the backdrop of existing import restrictions.

The worst affected are owners of small cars, many of whom derive an income by operating passenger taxi and affiliated services.

“We have no option but to ground our vehicles and be deprived of earnings to care for our families”, some passenger taxi services operators complained.

There is also the risk of facing legal action as the traffic police are now examining tyres of passenger vehicles on the roads following the bus accident at Passara, they noted.

Moreover, in the case of an accident, there is every possibility that insurance claims will be dishonored in case the tyres are found worn out, they further said.

The market is not wholly dependent on locally manufactured products, as the import restrictions apply only to radial tyres for rim sizes 12 and 13, and for motorcycle and three-wheeler tyres, says Ravi Dadlani, Managing Director, CEAT Kelani Holdings, a key player in the local tyre industry.

“That’s the crux of the matter. Tyres for rim sizes 12 and 13 are used in small cars, which are aplenty in the country not only for private use but also in the taxi services business, the operators pointed out.

“How can we run hires with worn out tyres and endanger the lives of passengers especially on wet days?”, they asked.

There is no restriction on the import of all other tyre types and sizes, including those for trucks and buses, Dadlani said.

With regard to ‘import restricted sizes’ – cars rim sizes 12 and 13, motorcycles and three-wheelers, CEAT produces 31,800 car Radial tyres in 12 & 13 sizes per month (whereas the market demand for these sizes is 32,000) meeting 100% of the market requirement, he explained.

If that was so, where have all the tyres pumped into the market gone?, the operators queried. “With dealers claiming they have not received fresh stocks, we have been going around in circles to find the right (tyre) sizes”.

Even refurbished tyres are being now being sold for fancy prices due to the shortage. Unlike earlier, there are no small tyres dumped on roadsides now because everything is being refurbished as prices are good due to the demand, they asserted.

“They wanted Rs. 5,000 for a size 13 refurbished tyre with no guarantee on performance. Perhaps, road accidents have shot up because some motorists use them as there’s no option”, a taxi service driver remarked.

It’s a risk no doubt, but some people prefer to take the challenge rather than keep their vehicles grounded and go hungry, he said.

CEAT also produces 100% of the requirement for three-wheeler tyres and 50% of the requirement for motorcycle tyres, the Managing Director said.

“Together with other local manufacturers of three-wheeler and motorcycle tyres, we can meet 150% of Sri Lanka’s demand in these categories”, he assured.

“People who talk of statistics should go around and see for themselves the reality of the situation on the ground”, the operators suggested.

Those who are holding stocks are selling them at exorbitant prices, they claimed.

The dealers are provided a price list covering all sizes and types of tyres by each manufacturer and are entitled to discounts of up to, or more than 30%. They are expected to pass on a substantial discount to the end customer based on the purchase terms, and to our knowledge the majority of genuine establishments still do so, Dadlani said.

There may be a price list, but that does not necessarily mean it happens that way. The shortage in the market has seen the emergence of brokers and middlemen who can procure tyres for customers at fancy prices, the operators further asserted.

Those who sit in comfort and dish out figures should do a round and find out what’s happening in the marketplace. They will then be able to come to terms with reality, they said.

Dealers say that when they order 100 tyres, for example, they receive only 25 and these are sold in double quick time due to the demand, they added.

“Our supplies to each dealer are on the basis of an established demand pattern based on the size of the market served by each outlet. This has worked well over many years. However, some dealers are now arbitrarily demanding more tyres to build up a larger inventory and may complain if they do not receive the increased volumes they are ordering”, Dadlani pointed out.

“It is also possible that a particular tyre size may not be available on the day it is ordered, but given the production cycles we operate, that size will become available within that month. We are in touch with cab companies and have not received complaints of vehicle fleets being grounded due to lack of tyres”, he continued.

A tyre dealer in Colombo The Sunday Island spoke to said local brands were not available, but offered a size 14 Chinese product for Rs. 9,900 each. Another dealer said he has only Dunlop to fit rim sizes 13 and 14 and quoted Rs. 11,750 for each.

The Managing Director said that CEAT has the capacity to produce 100% of the car and van radial tyre requirements for rim sizes 12 and 13, and together with other local manufacturers, 150% of the requirement of motorcycle tyres and 150% of the requirement for three-wheeler tyres.

Asked whether CEAT increased prices after the import restrictions were enforced, he said the company reduced prices in December 2019 and kept them unchanged in 2020 and until January 2021. During this period, natural rubber prices in the world market increased by over 50%. As a result, CEAT revised prices by 11.8% in January 2021 purely to absorb the raw material cost/other costs increases.

Asked whether the temporary closure of the CEAT manufacturing plant due to some employees testing Covid-19 positive lead to a disruption in the supply chain and reflect on market availability of its products, Dadlani replied, “In line with the government mandated health and safety protocols and in the interest of employee safety, we suspended manufacturing for seven days in February this year. This did result in an unavoidable disruption of supplies, considering that we manufacture about 3,200 radial and motorcycle tyres per day. We however made up for the production loss through additional production on Sundays”.




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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