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SLMA calls for permitting of burial of coronavirus victims under strict guidelines

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The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has said that based on currently available scientific information, burial of COVID-19 victims could be permitted in Sri Lanka under strict guidelines recommended by the Health Ministry.

The SLMA has said in a media statement: “The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak had many adverse impacts on the world population and the global economy. As of 25th December 2020, over 79.5 million people have been infected with more than 1.74 million deaths worldwide.

“Sri Lanka has reported over 43,000 cases with over 200 deaths. Since the virus was first identified in December 2019, the number of deaths has been increasing exponentially, causing countries across the world, including Sri Lanka, to develop and enhance emergency measures to combat the virus.

“Since the recent past, disposal of COVID-19 dead bodies has affected ethnic harmony in Sri Lanka.

In view of the cultural diversity of Sri Lanka, it is essential to have a proper policy for disposal of the dead which is acceptable to all.

Based on the limited scientific evidence available at the initial stages, a decision was made by the Director General of Health Services of the Ministry of Health to cremate all dead bodies of COVID-19 positive patients. Since then, there has been significant unrest among some communities regarding the government’s decision to impose compulsory cremation as the only avenue of disposal of COVID-19 deaths. This has the potential to cause much civil unrest. As a result, it was also found that people were generally reluctant to cooperate with the COVID control measures implemented by the Government. Many of them avoided seeing doctors and hence there were several deaths occurring at home without seeking medical attention or treatment.

“In view of all these considerations, the SLMA decided to review the situation as a matter of urgency, taking into account some new scientific knowledge available now regarding the COVID-19 disease. It was noted that good health means physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing.

“The significant adverse impact currently experienced by close family members and loved ones of COVID deaths and the disposal of bodies were also considered.

“SLMA had a meeting of the medical experts in all relevant fields on 31st December 2020. After extensive deliberations the following observations were made based solely on the currently available scientific evidence.

1. COVID infection occurs only through respiratory route. There are no reported infections through any other routes, including the gastro-intestinal portal.

2. Virus itself can thrive only inside a living cell. As such, it is unlikely that it could remain infectious within a dead body for any significant period of time.

3. A positive PCR found post-mortem does not necessarily mean that the dead body is infectious.

4. Contamination of water supply by sewage, consisting of excretions and secretions of COVID-19 infected patients could be much worse than any possible contamination from buried corpses.

5. Although there are a few instances reported where viral particles have been isolated from ground water, there are no reports of them being infective. There are no records of such infection even with older viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-I, which have been studied in much greater detail.

6. The reported planned exhumation and cremation of large numbers of minks culled in Denmark was not due to any possible contamination of water resources by the virus. It was due to a large amount of nitrogenous waste from these decomposing mink carcasses contaminating the nearby water sources and polluting the environment.

7. Even in the case of severe waterborne diseases like Cholera, burial of corpses was one of the practices of disposal of infected dead bodies.

“Based on these observations made, relying on currently available scientific information, the council of the Sri Lanka Medical Association is with the view that burial of COVID-19 dead bodies could be permitted in Sri Lanka.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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