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PCR testing can be increased by 300% overnight, say govt. Medical Lab Technologists



‘No additional machines, personnel required’  

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President Ravi Kumudesh yesterday disputed a Health Ministry claim that that PCR testing could not be increased in the short run.

Kumudesh said that there was no immediate need for more PCR machines, and the ones already available could be used to conduct more tests if the Health Ministry so desired.

“With the existing machines and the personnel handling them, we can easily increase PCR testing by 300% overnight,” Kumudesh said.

Deputy Director-General of Public Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath claimed at a press conference yesterday that although there was a demand for increasing PCR testing, that task could not be carried out so easily.

He said there would have to be more PCR machines and more specialised personnel such as medical Laboratory Technologists and microbiologists, for PCR testing to be ramped up. There were not enough PCR machines,he said.

However, when the CMLS President was asked for comment, he said if the Health Ministry was keen to conduct more tests, the available PCR machines and personnel were sufficient.

Kumudesh said that some existing PCR machines could not be operated for want of reagents.

“None of the state-run medical labs are operating at full capacity. The facilities can operate 24 hours a day and there are facilities and personnel to carry out the task. All our members are willing to work longer hours given the pandemic situation,” Kumudesh said.

There was no shortage of PCR machines in the world market as countries like China that produce them were open and if the Health Ministry wanted to acquire them, it could do so easily, the CMLS President said.

Kumudesh said his association’s request that rapid antigen tests be conducted on suspected COVID infected OPD patients had gone unheeded. The delays in PCR tests conducted at state institutions had impeded surgical and medical procedures there, he said.




Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic



Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds



By Dinasena Ratugamage


Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.



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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle



It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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