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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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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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