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Prof. Vitharana says recent protests did not contribute to rapid spread of virus

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was no evidence to prove that the recent protests had contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19, SLPP MP, Prof. Tissa Vitharana said yesterday.

He made the statement when asked whether there was a close connection between the anti-government protests and the rise in COVID-19 cases. Prof. Vitharana said that there had not been a scientific study on the matter, but he said he believed that the protests had little impact on the pandemic after analysing the data at hand and the geographical distribution of protests.

“I think that this is not the time to do and say things that divide people more. When Pavithra Wanniarachchi was the Minister of Health, I proposed that we establish a mechanism with the participation of party leaders. This would have allowed us to get their opinions and expand the anti-COVID initiatives. I think everyone knows what happened to my proposal. However, we need to have a COVID committee in each village. These committees must have capable people from all parties to monitor the COVID-19 guidelines and take action.”

Prof. Vitharana said that despite constant warnings a large number of people were taking the pandemic lightly. People went about their activities without much concern for COVID-19 guidelines and policemen do not act against those individuals, he said.

“Those responsible must ensure that people follow health guidelines. Now we have imposed a lockdown but there are still many people on roads. Why did we impose a lockdown? We did it to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from meeting others. Given the rapid spread of the virus, the government had to go for a lockdown. My proposal was for 14 days but even 10 days is enough if we do this right. Requesting people to behave has not worked,” he said.

The SLPP MP said that garment factories and other establishments could follow COVID-19 guidelines while maintaining optimal productivity. Sri Lanka’s largest garment factory network had approached him and now they had rearranged their factory floors to match the guidelines, he said.

Prof. Vitharana said some understood that the unchecked spread of the virus among the workforce was bad for business and they had taken necessary steps.

“Some employers don’t seem to care about what happens to their workers. These are people who can’t think of sustainability. The government has to make them understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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