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Specialist doctors urge extension of lockdown

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The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has urged the government to extend the current lockdown until the beginning of next month.

The AMS has said that an extension of the lockdown is necessary to reap the benefits of the sacrifices made by the entire nation.

A lockdown till early October was previously suggested by local experts who scientifically analysed the data they received from credible international sources.

“If the relaxation of current restrictions happens too soon, there is a high possibility of a severe spread of the disease resulting in sudden rise of hospital admissions making the health care facilities unable to cope with such a high number of patients. This can unfortunately increase the death rate especially with the identification of the delta variant as the dominant culprit throughout the country,” AMS President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando has said in a media statement.

The AMS has also cautioned the government that the decision to vaccinate children should never be rushed without taking time for critical analysis, more so in the younger age groups – especially the 12-15 age group.

Full text of the AMS media statement: “As we all know, our country still remains as one of the highest risk nations (Red list) with regards to COVID pandemic. We have just started to witness the positive impact of sustained lockdown with gradually declining case load, oxygen requirements and mortality.

“It is quite clear that the brunt of all ill effects of lockdown was borne by the hardest hit poorest stratum of our country. While feeling strongly for them, one must not ignore that a further period of extension of these travel restrictions will be required to reap the benefits of all the sacrifices of the entire nation. Therefore, we feel that due consideration should be given to long term gains overlooking short term losses when the extension of lockdown is reviewed.

“As a country, our aim should be to move to the “Green Zone” from the current “red zone” in a sustainable manner as quickly as we can. With this in mind, the AMS would like to request the decision makers to seriously consider taking this lockdown further to the beginning of early next month, as previously suggested by the widely represented local experts who scientifically analysed the data they received from credible international sources, when the WHO facilitated such brainstorming. If the relaxation of current restrictions happens too soon, there is a high possibility of severe spread of the disease resulting in sudden rise of hospital admissions making the health care facilities unable to cope with such a high number of patients. This can unfortunately increase the death rate especially with the identification of the delta variant as the dominant culprit throughout the country.

“Vaccination of schoolchildren with a view of reopening schools should be dealt with utmost caution. We endorse the recommendations of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians regarding the vaccination of “high risk groups”. However, vaccination of all school children needs further substantiation of international studies weighing risks and benefits.

“As of today, if this age group needs vaccination, Pfizer Biontech should be considered as the most suitable vaccine and this should never be rushed without taking time for critical analysis, more so in the younger age groups – especially the 12-15 age group.

“When schools reopen hurriedly, children in common conveyance systems with their playful behaviour will invariably result in another wave due to “school clusters”, while not forgetting the fact that the crowd that is added to spread the disease will be far more than the number of schoolchildren.

“Revival of tourism is undoubtedly a need of the hour as a solution to the present economic crisis. However, well calculated, broad based and transparent mechanisms should be introduced to attract tourists from all over the world. Therefore, a sound methodology should be adopted to ensure that Sri Lanka is safe for all and not only for few countries of choice

“We have witnessed much debate and recommendations regarding a third dose. We as a professional organization strongly believe in social equity and justice. We feel that it is morally incorrect and unacceptable to consider a third dose for otherwise healthy and young people until the entire vulnerable population (those above 60 years and those with recognized risk factors for severe Covid in any age) are vaccinated. In addition, we must ensure that the above-mentioned risk group who received two doses of Sinopharm should receive a third dose of Pfizer or similar vaccines. We believe this as a reason for the comparatively higher percentage of fully vaccinated older persons (Over 60) have died of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka.

“The mindset of the young 20-30 year old needs to be changed with effective education to focus on the fact that Sinopharm vaccine gives them excellent immunity based on the data available, and the need of the hour is for them to receive the Sinopharm vaccine faster to make Sri Lanka Covid free sooner than later.”



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No immediate hike in fuel prices – Udaya

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Finance Minister rules out bailout package for CPC

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has told Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila that the Treasury is not in a position to assist the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). However, there would not be a fuel price hike in the short term, the Minister of Energy told the media yesterday.

Minister Gammanpila said that if a fuel hike was on the cards, he would announce it publicly.

“This is what I did last time also. This time around, I have told the people that we are facing a serious problem. We incur a loss of Rs. 15 on a litre of petrol and a loss of Rs 16 on a litre of diesel. The Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has asked for a price increase,” he said.

Gammanpila said he told the Chairman of the CPC that they should first seek assistance from the Treasury. Given that prices of all essential items had increased, a significant increase in fuel prices would cause great inconvenience to the people, he said.

“At the last Cabinet meeting, I asked the Finance Minister for assistance. He said it was hard to provide assistance and was non-committal. I will again take the matter up at the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.

The government was discussing the possibility of obtaining a 3.6 billion US dollar credit line for fuel from Oman. Sri Lanka spent around USD 300 million on oil imports per month and the credit line would allow for a year of fuel supply at concessionary rates, the Minister said.

“If we get this credit line, we should be able to weather this storm. Otherwise, I will ask the Cabinet for relief. While people are suffering, we can’t also let the CPC go bankrupt. If CPC goes bust, the People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon will be in deep trouble too,” the Minister said.

Gammanpila added that there was no point in queuing at fuel stations because a decision to increase fuel takes a few months to be approved. For example the previous hike in June was first proposed in April. “If takes a few months for such a proposal to be approved and implemented. I was told that people were queuing at fuel stations last Monday and Wednesday.”

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JVP calls for multi-agency probe into Rs. 4 bn. Gin-Nilwala scam

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Ex Prez can assist inquiry

By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says a comprehensive multi-agency investigation is required to get to the bottom of what he called the massive Gin Nilwala scam perpetrated in 2012 and 2015.

In spite of disclosures in that regard, both in and outside Parliament, over a period of time, absolutely nothing had been done so far, lawmaker Dissanayake told The Island.

The government owed an explanation why over Rs 4 bn had been paid to a Chinese firm, in Dec 2012, and on January 7, 2015, as the project was yet to get off the ground, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that he felt the need to highlight the Gin Nilwala scam against the backdrop of the Pandora Papers exposure of former Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa’s husband, Thirukumar Nadesan, as the Chinese company, allegedly involved in the Gin Nilwala project had moved money to a foreign account, in Hong Kong, held by the businessman.

Asked whether the Gin Nilwala scam, too, had been dealt by Pandora Papers, MP Dissanayake said as far as he knew Pandora Papers’ disclosure didn’t include the Gin Nilwala project.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Dissanayake said that though the then President Maithripala Sirisena questioned the Gin Nilwala project, the yahapalana government never investigated the issue properly.

MP Dissanayake said it wouldn’t be a difficult task to establish the transferring to a foreign account of Rs one bn in Dec 2012 and the over Rs. 3 bn on January 7, 2015, the day before the presidential election. Since the release of Pandora Papers, the video footage of former President Sirisena, now an SLPP MP, on the Gin Nilwala project had gone viral, the MP said.

The JVP leader said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) should inquire into the matter as part of the ongoing examination of matters relating to Thirukumar Nadesan in respect of Pandora Papers.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Oct. 06 instructed CIABOC to inquire into Sri Lankans mentioned in Pandora Papers. Nadesan, too, also on the same day, asked President Rajapaksa to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations by appointing a retired Appeals Court Judge for the task. The CIABOC has recorded Nadesan’s statement in this regard.

MP Dissanayake alleged that successive governments had conveniently turned a blind eye to major cases of corruption. The very basis of parliamentary control over public finance was under threat, MP Dissanayake said, urging the government to take remedial measures or face the consequences. “Billions of rupees had been moved around, misappropriated and squandered. Those responsible for ensuring the proper practices are accused of exploiting the system. What is happening now is tragic,” MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that examination of proceedings of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Finance) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) since the last general election revealed a frightening situation. The reports before the last general election were no exception, the parliamentarian said, the level of corruption in the public sector and the private-public sector joint ventures was horrifying. The national economy was being mercilessly exploited by persons holding office, the JVP leader said, the CIABOC could examine proceedings of the parliamentary watchdog committees if it was genuinely interested in stamping out corruption.

MP Dissanayake said that the national economy was in such a desperate situation thanks to decades of waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence on the part of political parties in power. “Today, we are seeking finance assistance from various countries. Recently, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris revealed he discussed ways and means to overcome financial crisis with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary,” he said.

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions extended to Oct 21

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions have been extended to October 21, the Presidential Media Division (PMD) said issuing a press release yesterday.

The PMD added that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed the security forces to strictly enforce the inter-province travel restrictions during the weekend.

The decision was taken at the COVID-19 Prevention Committee meeting held Friday (15) morning.

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