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SL to purchase 3mn Covishield jabs; plans to vaccinate 50-60% this year

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Sri Lanka plans to purchase three million doses of India’s Covishield vaccine and use a combination of Indian, Russian and Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines pending approval to immunise 50 to 60 per cent of the population within the year, an official said.

Presidential advisor Lalith Weeratunga told reporters that Sri Lanka has sent a formal request to the Serum Institute of India for the three million vials of the company’s version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield. This is in addition to half a million doses of the same vaccine arriving in Sri Lanka tomorrow as a donation from the Indian government.

“We are hoping to place a purchase order through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka for two to three million doses,” said Weeratunga.

Given global demands, Sri Lanka must act quickly to acquire vaccines for the population as early as possible, he said, but it must be done according to a plan.

“There is no point storing an unnecessarily large amount of vaccine in the country, and this Covishield vaccine has to be used within six months of the manufactured date. We need to plan an operation to speedily distribute it among the general public when we reach that phase,” he said.

Weeratunga further said the government will take similar steps with other vaccines if the National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approves them to be used in Sri Lanka.

“Though we have expressed interest to purchase the vaccine as early as possible, we have to wait until the Serum institute accepts it. It will take them some time to deliver that consignment. In the meantime, if the other vaccines are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and t he NMRA, we will do the same with them as well,” he said.

Acting Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Susi Perera said that with the WHO recommending that people under the age of 20, pregnant and breast-feeding women be not vaccinated, 35 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population will not receive the vaccination.

“When the Ministry of Health listed the groups of people that need to be vaccinated, the we saw that we need to vaccinate more than 20 per cent of the population in order to manage virus. So we decided to vaccinate 50 percent,” she said.

“There is 65 percent that need to be vaccinated excluding the 35 percent [who don’t need vaccination]. The ministry has decided to vaccinate at least 50 percent,” she added.

Weeratunga claimed the government will be able to vaccinate 50-60 percent of the targeted population within this year.

“We have queued up to get the vaccine from various institutes. Right now what we have is the Oxford-AstraZeneca one. But if Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm also get WHO and NMRA approval based on all the data that is generated out of ongoing trials, we will have a combination of vaccines. Very tentatively I can say 50-60 percent of the targeted group will be vaccinated within the year,” he said.



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Geneva HR vote:

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UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative

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by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award

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Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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