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SLMA President calls for vaccination of everyone above 60 to meet emerging threat



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Everyone over 60 should be vaccinated to prepare the country to face the Omicron COVID variant and/or a potential new wave during the coming festive season, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Dr. Padma Gunaratne says.

She has said that a lot of attention has been paid to determining whether Omicron has entered Sri Lanka. However, everyone should not forget that the Delta variant that dominated infections here is still a major threat and that there could be a spike in cases after the festive season, she says.

“People have let their guard down. They are going shopping. They are gathering in large numbers. Physical distancing is ignored. The festive season is coming up and we may see a spike in cases,” she said.

Dr. Gunaratne added that those who were above 60, if they had been double jabbed, needed to take the booster shot. If a person over 60 was not vaccinated he or she should get vaccinated, she said.

“We already see a small increase in pandemic deaths. We must focus on getting everyone vaccinated. Things aren’t looking good and a new wave is coming. So, I urge everyone to get vaccinated,” she said.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s preparation to face the Omicron variant, Dr. Gunaratne said that Sri Lanka had already taken several steps, including banning travellers from a number of countries.

“We can’t close our borders because there is a threat. We have to think of the economy, too. We must try to delay the arrival of the variant and use the coming weeks to vaccinate people and prepare the health system for a new spike,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nadeeka Janage, a Consultant Medical Virologist, attached to the Medical Research Institute, (MRI), said that new variants could occur in countries where vaccination was low.

“New variants can often happen in areas where vaccination is low and when people with low immunity are infected. In the case of those with low immunity, the virus stays in the body for a long time and it can change. The way people behave in society, too, plays a role. If people are not careful, the virus spreads in the community and thus increases the chance of mutation,” he said.

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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration




It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives



Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”



Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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