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Peliyagoda fish market cluster big and widespread in its reach

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BY SURESH PERERA

The Peliyagoda fish market coronavirus cluster believed to have been triggered by the fresh eruption of the contagion at Minuwangoda appears to be quite big in dimension and widespread in its reach, a senior medical official said.

“The fish market outbreak seems rather substantial with a potent level of transmission”, says Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, Deputy Director of the Medical Research Institute (MRI).

“It is imperative that we trace everybody who came into contact with those infected to prevent the further spread of the virus”, he stressed.

Initially, 49 persons, mainly fish vendors, tested positive for corona, which led to the sealing of the complex on Wednesday. PCR tests were conducted on all vendors, customers and others within the premises and they were later transported in buses by the army to a quarantine centre at Diyatalawa.

By Friday, the number infected from the Peliyagoda fish market cluster climbed by another 182, while the total number of positive cases (since the Minuwangoda garment factory outbreak) has exceeded 2,850.

According to available statistics, Covid-19 cases have been reported from across many districts including Gampaha, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Galle, Hambantota, Kegalle, Kandy, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Jaffna, Mannar, Badulla, Kalutara and Moneragala.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka reported its 14th Covid-19 related death on Thursday. The patient, a 50-year-old woman from Kuliyapitiya, was under treatment at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) at the time of her death.

Asked whether the quarantine curfew imposed in some areas of Colombo North was meant to facilitate contact tracing, Dr. Bandara, who doubles up as the Health Ministry’s official spokesman, said the objective was also to curtail the movement of people.

“As most people tend to travel from one area to another within their locality for various reasons, we want to restrict their movements to arrest the transmission of the virus”, he noted.

Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Shavendra has asked people, who had visited the Peliyagoda fish market over the past few days, to report to the closest PHI office to undergo PCR tests.

Visitors to the fish market queued outside the Mahara PHI’s office at Kadawatha for PCR screening yesterday.

PCR testing is imperative as most of those who had tested positive for the deadly virus were fish vendors and the possibility of contracting the virus through contact with them remains high, public health officials cautioned.

Where the emergence of the coronavirus at the Peliyagoda fish market was concerned, health officials suspect that the primary carrier was a vendor residing at Dompe.

He is believed to have passed on the infection to the others working within the complex, though it has still not been established how he picked up the virus.

Suspicions also linger about the infection being linked to the Minuwangoda cluster, the officials said.

On Thursday, police announced the imposition of a quarantine curfew in Kotahena as well, in addition to Mattakkuliya, Modara, Bloemendhal, Grandpass and Wellampitiya, where restrictions were placed the previous day.

The curfew in these areas will continue until 5.00 am on Monday (26).

With new infections on the decline, Sri Lanka was gradually recovering from the devastating fallout of the killer virus when the eruption of the garment factory cluster hit hard by triggering a fresh wave with more almost 3,000 new cases reported so far.

The Army Commander is on record saying the Minuwangoda cluster appears to be of foreign origin, but there has to be further verification to firmly establish the source.

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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’

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Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’

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By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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