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Sri Lanka has lost grip of the situation – PHIs



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Sri Lanka was no longer capable of carrying out random sampling which helped identify clusters at an early stage during the first and second wave of the pandemic, Public Health Inspectors’ Union head, Upul Rohana said yesterday.

Rohana said the country could only test about 26, 000 PCR samples a day and most of that capacity was used up to test the first-rung associates of COVID-19 cases.

“There were over 3,600 COVID-19 positive cases on Wednesday. Imagine how many first-rung associates they had? And what about the first-rung associates of the first-rung associates of confirmed cases? Right now, we cannot quarantine these people. We have to wait till we get PCR reports of first-rung associates of confirmed cases to quarantine their associates.”

Rohana said that on average it took four to nine days for a PCR test report to be issued and by that time many potentially positive persons were freely mingling in society. Thus, the number of actual COVID-19 cases could be what was reported, he said.

“During the first wave, we overreacted and that was good. We pursued potential cases and dismantled clusters before they exploded. However, we just do not have the capacity to do this now,” he said.

Given the circumstances, the best thing that could be done was to restrict the movement of all Sri Lankans until the authorities could get a grip of the situation, Rohana said, adding that unlike in the first and second waves of the pandemic, some private laboratories were not sharing PCR test results with the government.

“This is a punishable crime under the Quarantine Ordinance. Because of this, some people infected with the coronavirus are staying at home. On the other hand, we must admit that people have unpleasant experience at treatment centres,” he said.

Rohana said that although the number of COVID-19 cases had dropped around 2021 March, the PHIs had seen some disturbing signs and warned the Health Ministry that all was not well. For example there were clusters being reported in work places and factories.

“When the Sinhala and Tamil New year season started we urged caution. We saw that people had started celebrating even by 06 April. People went on trips and went shopping. In most clothing shops there were infections among employees. There were a person or two in most of the groups that went on trips. As we noted, COVID-19 was in factories and during the vacation; these workers went home and mingled with their friends. Now, we are seeing the results.”




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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic



Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds



By Dinasena Ratugamage


Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.



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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle



It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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