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Pavitra says extraordinary measures adopted to keep country safe, offers to be sacrificed to the sea

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by Saman Indrajith

Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi told Parliament on Tuesday (3) that Sri Lanka followed guidelines and imposed some precautions to ensure that the nation would be safe from the COVID-19 pandemic even if such precautionary measures had not been taken in other countries.

The Minister said that nowhere in the world a person without symptoms was directed to undergo self-quarantine after 12 days of monitoring period, but it was done in Sri Lanka to contain the pandemic.

SJB Kurunegala District MP Ashok Abeysinghe:

Is it true that even if a person shows COVID-19 symptoms, he or she would be asked to undergo self-quarantine at home?

 Minister Wanniarachchi:

If a person shows COVID-19 symptoms he will be taken to hospital by an ambulance. We follow health guidelines formulated by world renowned virologists including Dr Malik Peiris. Their advice is to monitor a person suspected to have contracted the virus for 12 days. We are told that if the person does not show any symptom within 12 days, that person is neither infected nor possesses a threat to spread the disease to others. We will refer such persons for 14 more days of self-quarantine. Such precautions are not taken anywhere in the world. But we ensure that our nation is safe from the virus.

MP Abeysinghe:

Then how come there are people in Anamaduwa who have been infected twice and thrice?

Minister Wanniarachchi:

This is a new virus.

 Ratnapura District SJB MP Hesha Withange:

Over a private TV channel, a doctor said that if one got COVID-19 symptoms, he or she should go to hospital. Basil Rajapaksa says those who have symptoms should not go out but stay wherever they are to undergo quarantine. What should people follow?

 Minister Wanniarachchi:

Both said that they should not spread the virus and an ambulance would come to the house of the infected and take that person to hospital.

 MP Abeysinghe: Now we hear of the 23rd death. The 21st, 22nd and 23rd deaths were reported from their homes. It was only after their deaths, it was found that they were infected.

 Minister Wanniarachchi: They were in a quarantine process under observation. We identified them as second and first level contacts of the infected and prescribed them quarantine.

MP Abeysinghe:

I just checked now. One person died in a hospital in a normal ward among other patients. If that person is infected he should have been in a separate special ward isn’t it?

Minister Wanniarachchi:

I do not know of the deaths that occurred while I am here in this House. I did not have time to ask from the Director General of Health. I will ask him and let you know. 

Earlier in the day, the minister assured Parliament that she was even ready to be sacrificed to the sea if that act would ensure the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Starting the debate on two Regulations of the Medical Ordinance, she said that many people sling mud at her using images of her engaging in a religious activity to get blessings to curb the pandemic.

“The Opposition slings mud at me and puts up Facebook posts stating that the country would be safe if I would sacrifice myself to the sea. According to the legends deities watch over this country. I do my best these days to prevent this pandemic as the responsible minister.  Apart from that, I have received many invitations to participate in religious activities to bless the country in this difficult situation. I am even ready to sacrifice myself to the sea if that will help protect the country from COVID-19.”

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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