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SLMA warns of imminent Covid outbreak, recommends countermeasures

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The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has warned of dire consequences unless the government maintains stringent health guidelines in place to thwart another major Covid-19 eruption and adopt measures such as booster doses for high-risk groups.

The following is the text of statement issued by the President of the SLMA Dr. Padma Gunaratne: “While sincerely appreciating the decisions taken by your Government to mitigate the last wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, lessons learnt from the recent outbreaks in countries such as the United Kingdom, Singapore and Israel compel us to believe that another wave is imminent, particularly now that movement restrictions have been lifted. As such, we consider it more important than ever before that precise steps are taken at this point of time within the context of the current regulations to prevent another surge of infections. Another wave of infections will be extremely deleterious to the health and the economy of the country.

We are pleased to recommend the following steps for implementation:

1. Stringent enforcement of current regulations by monitoring:

It is noted that although reasonable guidelines and regulations on public health measures have been issued by the Ministry of Health, the implementation of these measures is extremely lax, and that they are widely disobeyed by the public. Many do not adhere to wearing masks, and social distancing is not maintained in public places such as shops, markets, places of worship, and events such as funerals etc. We urge the Government to take adequate measures to enforce these regulations through a system of close monitoring and ensure that health regulations issued by the Director General Health Services are fully implemented.

2. Third dose/booster of Pfizer vaccine to priority groups:

It has been established that 7% of elders who received Sinopharm vaccine in Sri Lanka have not developed an adequate level of immunity against COVID-19. The re-opening of schools and lifting of mobility restrictions will significantly increase the risk of these elders contracting COVID-19 infection such as via their grandchildren, and they are more prone than other age groups to severe disease and death.

Furthermore, healthcare professionals are now completing six months following the last dose of their Covishield vaccine and their immunity levels will begin to wane. They will soon be at a greatly increased risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection.

As such, people over 60 years of age, patients less than 60 years with immune deficiency states and all healthcare professionals should be given a third dose / booster of the Pfizer vaccine without delay. This should be considered as one of the highest priority activities to prevent another wave of infections in the near future.

3 Continue with restrictions on super-spreader situations and events:

Crowded enclosed environments constitute super-spreader situations for COVID-19 infection. As such we earnestly request the government to delay for a further period of time the complete relaxation of regulations pertaining to public events by restricting numbers at weddings, religious events, funerals, musical shows, gatherings at clubs etc., in enclosed environments.

4. Sustain a high level of case surveillance by testing:

Early detection of a rise in infections would be extremely important if the next wave of infection is to be prevented. Careful surveillance would enable the government to take prompt action to prevent an escalation of the disease, again. As such strengthening the routine surveillance system for COVID-19 is of paramount importance. In this regard we request the Ministry of Health to maintain a high level of testing for COVID-19 including in the community, and to strengthen the ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Tract Infections’ (SARI) surveillance system in OPDs of all major hospitals.

We, at the Sri Lanka Medical Association remain committed to assist the government of Sri Lanka in all your endeavours to safeguard the health of the nation. ”



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UK funds projects here to prevent conflicts that threaten its interests

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GoSL not among recipients

‘The CSSF is a cross government fund which supports and delivers activity to prevent instability and conflicts that threaten UK interests’

– UK Govt. website

The British High Commission yesterday (25) announced funding for projects worth £3.7m in 2022/23 here to thwart instability and conflicts that threaten British interests.

The announcement came after the conclusion of the visit of British Foreign Minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is also Minister of State for South Asia, the UN, and the Commonwealth and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The British official visited Jaffna and Trincomalee.

The British HC quoted Lord Ahmad as having said: “Building lasting and inclusive peace in Sri Lanka, based on reconciliation, justice and protecting human rights is key to a stable Sri Lanka, which can attract foreign investment and achieve its economic potential. We are pleased to announce continued support to Sri Lanka through the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) to address legacies of conflict, promote human rights and build cohesion across all

communities through programme funding of up to £3.7m in 2022/23.”

In response to The Island query whether the Sri Lankan government would be among the recipients of CSSF funding, BHC spokesperson said: “The funding is for programmes and projects implemented with support from BHC. All CSSF programming in Sri Lanka, will be delivered through a combination of civil society, private sector, and international development partners.”

According to the UK government website, the CSSF addressed complex national security challenges and promote international peace and stability. The National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by senior cabinet ministers, sets the CSSF’s strategic direction. It is guided by the priorities set out in the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The BHC stated: “Lord Ahmad met senior members of the government, including President Gotabaya Rajapaska and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He discussed the importance of the UK Sri Lanka relationship and areas of mutual interest such as climate change and economic recovery from Covid-19. The Minister also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Sri Lanka on Healthcare Cooperation, which will improve knowledge sharing, best practice and expertise on healthcare, and develop an ethical and sustainable recruitment programme for the employment of Sri Lankan nurses and other healthcare professionals in the UK.

During his visit to the North and Eastern Provinces, the Minister met with local politicians and civil society. He discussed key Tamil and Muslim concerns, local governance and inclusive political engagement participation. He emphasised the UK’s support for open, tolerant and inclusive societies as well as freedom of religion or belief.

Throughout his visit to Sri Lanka, Lord Ahmad heard about the essential role civil society play in promoting respect for human rights and their views on how to make progress on reconciliation and accountability.”

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UGC Chief receives ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice

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Senior Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with Amb Sugiyama after receiving the title

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has received the prestigious Japanese title ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice.

The academic received the title the highest order conferred by the Government of Japan in the name of His Majesty the Emperor, on 14 Oct. 2021 from the then Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Akira Sugiyama at his official residence.

For the second time, the UGC Chief received the same title from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at Dharmavijayaloka Vihara in Rukmale in Pannipitiya at an event organised on 22 January, 2022.

The Presidential Media Division said that President Rajapaksa after receiving the award

from W.K.H. Wegapitiya, Chairman of University of Sri Jayewardenepura Alumni Association and Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki presented it to Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga.

Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with President Rajapaksa

Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne delivered the keynote address on the occasion.

‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ is conferred by His Majesty on individuals who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture et al.

The Japanese embassy announced Senior Prof. Amaratunga and Manoj Fernando, Executive Vice President of the Sri Lanka Baseball/Softball Association (SLBSA) received the award.

The Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Most Ven. Ittapana Dhammalankara Thera has presented a memento to Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki.

W.K.H. Wegapitiya and Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, presented a memento to the President. The members of Maha Sangha, MP S.B. Dissanayake, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of the Universities, and alumni of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura were also present.

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Cardinal insists on taking Easter killings to int’l community

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Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has said they are left with no alternative but to turn to the international community to seek justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, according to a report published by the Union of Catholic Asian News yesterday (25).

“We tried our best to solve the issue within the country and do justice to our people but have failed,” he said during an online forum with an international audience on Jan. 24.

“The legal system under the Attorney General does not consider the recommendations of the presidential commission on the Easter attacks, therefore we have no option but to go international.”

Cardinal Ranjith had hinted in April 2021 of his intentions to not only approach the United Nations but also countries with global influence.

“We can influence those countries as the Church is an international organisation. We have connections all over the world,”he said.

A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamaath was suspected to be behind the bombings at three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in 2019. The attacks killed 269 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and left around 500 injured.

Catholics in Sri Lanka have not been happy with the investigations and led by Cardinal Ranjith have vowed to fight for justice until the truth behind the attacks is revealed.

Cardinal Ranjith said he was not satisfied with the investigations underway since the recovery of a live hand grenade at All Saints’ Church in Borella on Jan. 11.

Muni, a church worker, has been arrested as a suspect by police but the local Church alleged he was being falsely implicated.

Cardinal Ranjith said that such a thing will not be allowed to happen. “We trust the judiciary to take steps to rectify the wrongdoing in the court,” he said.

The arrest of a retired doctor in connection with the same case had further raised suspicion, with Father Cyril Gamini questioning the police investigations.

“We understand that this is an attempt at fabricating a story. The whole country knows that this is a drama and we can see it is a very weak script,” he said.

Father Gamini was earlier questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department over his claims regarding the Easter Sunday attacks during an online forum last November.

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