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SL faces critical Covid-19 pandemic situation as positive cases approach 10,000

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Contagion has already spread to 23 districts

by SURESH PERERA

With the number of Covid-19 patients in Sri Lanka fast approaching the 10,000 mark, the country is on the verge of a critical pandemic situation, a top medical official warned.

“The danger is that countries which had reached 10,000 in terms of corona virus infected persons, had seen the figures doubling in no time”, says Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, Deputy Director of the Medical Research Institute (MRI).

He said that many countries, which topped 10,000 Covid-19 cases, experienced an unprecedented leap thereafter with figures of patients swiftly zooming to 20,000 plus in an alarming upward trajectory.

“We have to make a concerted effort to tackle the transmission of the virus and keep the emergence of new infections at bay in a bid to overcome the health crisis”, he stressed.

Dr. Bandara said the deadly infection has already spread to 23 districts in Sri Lanka but there’s every possibility that it may have crept into the other two districts as well and remain undetected.

The government has set out a series of public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, and it is important to keep in mind that strict adherence to the preventive measures will help in a big way to bring the situation under control, Dr. Bandara emphasized.

“We are doing our part, and it is in the hands of the people to prevent the virus from spreading any further through responsible behavior in the face of a grave crisis”, he continued.

The elderly should take additional precautions as the infection could prove fatal, particularly to those with underlying diseases, he cautioned.

“Hypothetically, if there are 500 positive cases in every 1,000 people we screen, there will be 1,500 patients for every 3,000. One can imagine how frightening such a scenario will turn out to be”, he elaborated.

Asked about reports on the delay in PCR reports reaching patients, Dr. Bandara said there have been complaints that some reports take as many as four to five days to be released.

“Earlier, we used to issue PCR reports within 12 hours but with the surge in the number of infected patients, there is a delay”, he said.

Asked whether a PCR screening system break down has led to the accumulation of more than 10,000 reports, he said he was not aware of it but with numbers spiraling there was cause for delays.

On whether the corona viral strain that infected people in the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda fish market second wave had a heavier load, he replied, “Yes, the strain is stronger than the previous eruption”.

Asked whether the health authorities have “lost control over tackling the contagion”, as claimed in some quarters, the Health Ministry’s Director of the Epidemiology Unit, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, countered “if we have lost control, we will say so”.

When asked for his thoughts on the gravity of the Covid-19 situation in the country, he said: ‘Don’t bother me. I can’t be talking to the media saying the same thing all the time. I have work to do”.

“What some of these people should realize is that the support of the media is imperative in this hour of need to create greater public awareness”, a senior medical official said.

With the virus going haywire, health officials may be under tremendous pressure, but being hostile to the media is simply counter-productive in a crisis situation, he added.

“After all, the media is not to be blamed for the mess up”.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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