By Suresh Perera
Amidst the alarming surge in Covid-19 infections, health officials expressed concern over the possible emergence of a new variant of the contagion leading to the rapid transmission of the virus.
“We assume that a new strain of the virus has surfaced though it has still not been conclusively established”, says Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, Director of the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit.
The rapid transmission level of the virus has raised concern over a new variant with a more virulent load developing to claim bigger numbers in terms of infections, health officials said.
With 634 deaths so far, Covid-19 positive cases have spiked over the past few days with admissions to intensive care units spiraling.
In the backdrop of many areas across several districts being placed under isolation as infection numbers soared, Dr. Samaraweera said the emergence of some new clusters has propelled the health authorities to clamp down emergency measures to halt the further spread of the deadly virus.
PCR screening has also been stepped up following the escalation of positive cases, with 15,000 tests conducted on a daily basis, the officials said. “If Colombo becomes a hotspot again, the spillover could have disastrous consequences”.
The next three weeks will be crucial as infections could proliferate if people don’t avoid crowded places, get-togethers and events, which are super-spreaders of the virus, they warned.
At present, the rise in infections cannot be described as a ‘third wave’, but it will happen if people continue to throw caution to the wind and disregard health safety guidelines, they cautioned.
The eruption of fresh clusters was the result of intense inter-provincial travel, shopping in crowded bazaars and get-togethers during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year notwithstanding clear warnings by health authorities to adhere to stipulated Covid-19 preventive measures, the officials explained.
Now, the country has to pay the price for the folly of a few who didn’t give a tuppence about safety protocols, they pointed out.
Take the Pamunuwa area in Maharagama as an example. Prior to the New Year holidays, business establishments and the bazaar there were crammed with shoppers many of whom disregarded Covid-19 safety guidelines, health officials said.
The end result was that two shops selling clothes were closed, after two employees tested positive for corona and 22 of their close contacts identified and isolated, they noted.
The latest area to be placed under lockdown on Thursday was Kuliyapitiya in the Kurunegala district, where a surge in infections was witnessed.
Sub-clusters have also emerged in Kurunegala, Narammala, Alawwa, Gampaha, Colombo, Kottawa, Piliyandala, Panadura, Puttalam, Trincomalee and Jaffna.
Some sub clusters were also reported from the garment sector after some workers were found infected in a few factories. Twelve persons from Batuwatte in Ragama and 26 individuals from Divulapitiya also tested positive after they had participated in various New Year related activities.
Contact tracing of close associates was set in motion with those identified so far placed under isolation.
Some employees of a bank in Colombo were also found infected.
As a preventive measure, the Prisons Department announced on Friday that no visitors will be allowed into any prisons for two weeks with effect from Saturday, April 24.
Prez to unveil plan on 13 A
SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session
By Saman Indrajith
The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.
MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.
Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.
Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.
Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”
All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.
TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.
Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.
Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.
A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.
MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT
MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).
The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.
MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.
On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.
MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.
The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.
According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.
To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.
Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:
“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”
Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group
The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).
A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.
Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.
Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.
Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.
The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.
Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.
9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.
10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.
10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.
11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.
12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.
5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.
6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.
All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.
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