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Success of vaccination drive hinges on inoculation of the elderly

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Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Forum of Sri Lanka

The Council of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Forum of Sri Lanka has appreciated the decision made by the government to buy nine million doses of Covisheild vaccine from Serum Institute of India to be given to Sri Lankan citizens. We noted that 500,000 doses gifted to us by India have been given to healthcare workers and social workers involved in the care of the COVID patients and contacts. We also have observed that the remaining vaccines have been distributed to many MOH areas to be given to adults between 30 years to 59 years of age.

Our opinion and that of WHO are entirely different. According to the WHO protocol, the first priority is given to the healthcare workers and the next priority is given to people over 65 years and people with comorbid features.

Countries such as Israel has vaccinated elderly over 65 years and people with comorbid features first before giving the vaccine to healthcare workers. The reason was to bring down the mortality rate. In fact, Israel has seen the results within three weeks with a significant reduction of deaths. New Zealand has decided to follow Israel by giving the vaccine first to the elderly before giving it to healthcare workers.

In fact, the primary purpose of this vaccination is to prevent deaths.

The vaccine efficacy ranges from 70-84%, signifying a possibility of getting COVID 19 infection despite vaccination. But with AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield), it is observed that the mortality reduction is almost 100%. That is the primary aim of this vaccine programme. However, the Ministry decision to give the remaining vaccines to the public between 30-59 years is meaningless. It does not avert deaths among the elderly. The basis of this decision by the Ministry of Health is not clear. The number of doses left would be only 2-3 hundred thousand. With such a limited number of vaccine doses, how could a population of Sri Lankans aged between 30 -59 years be protected. In fact, this limited number of doses, should have been given to people over 65 years of age. That would have helped prevent a significant number of deaths due to COVID-19.

There is suspicion among the members of the public, and it is unavoidable and excusable. The decision to give the vaccine to the persons of 30-59 years has created the wrong impression among the public that the vaccine should not be given to elderly over 60 years, as it is unsafe. We have heard that it is already happening and people may become reluctant to give the vaccine to the elderly.

When the new consignment of vaccines is available for elderly people, it may become difficult to convince the public that the vaccine is safe for the elderly. They might ask, “Then why didn’t you give the vaccine to elderly last time. We hope that the Ministry would come out with a convincing answer.

Saving lives is of paramount importance. Therefore, if the elderly are not vaccinated, the COVID vaccination programme will be in vain.

 

Dr. H.T. Wickramasinghe

Consultant Paediatrician

President, Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Forum of Sri Lanka



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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