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UNICEF reveals UK hogs mountain of surplus vaccines while poor nations are crying out for help

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While Sri Lanka is stuggling to procure 600,000 AstraZeneca doses needed for the second jab, the UNICEF yesterday (12) reported that the United Kingdom had a massive surplus of vaccines.

UNICEF said that the UK should give away a fifth of its Covid vaccines to help poorer countries protect their citizens. The British media reported that the UK has ordered 517million doses though it required around 160m to vaccinate all adults and give them booster jabs in the autumn, as planned.

Analysis by the UK arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund asserted that the country could have enough leftover doses to fully vaccinate 50m people – the population of Spain or South Korea.

And if all the vaccines currently in trials are approved this would soar to 115m, it said – almost double the population of South Africa.

Campaigners warned hogging vaccines and allowing the virus to continue spreading elsewhere would raise the risk of a new variant emerging and coming back to wreak havoc in Britain.

UNICEF said Britain could share 20 per cent of its current supply and still hit its goal of offering every adult a vaccine by the end of July. It claimed the UK could reach the target by July 9 and sharing the doses would only push it back by 10 days. 

‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid,’ said UNICEF UK’s Joanna Rea. 

Two thirds of adults in the UK have now had at least one vaccine dose and almost 18million are fully vaccinated. Real-world data suggests the jabs prevent eight to nine out of 10 severe Covid cases, almost all deaths and also slash transmission of the virus by half

UNICEF estimated that Britain could give away 20 per cent of its projected available stock and still meet its target to give all adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of July.

But it is not clear how many vaccines the UK is currently sitting on because of commercial agreements to keep the figures private. 

The only data provided is the number of doses of each jab that have been dished out — 28.5million of AstraZeneca, 19.5m of Pfizer and 100,000 of Moderna.

The charity warned that the success of the vaccination programme in the UK could be ‘reversed’ if supply is not shared.

Concerns have been raised that while the virus rages in other parts of the world there is more chance for new variants to emerge.

And experts have suggested that new variants could potentially escape the protection afforded by the vaccines.

UNICEF UK called on the Government and other G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – to start sharing vaccines through Covax from June. 

Ms Rea said: ‘The UK has done a fantastic job in rolling out Covid vaccines to more than half of its adult population and we should all be proud of what has been achieved.

‘However, we can’t ignore that the UK and other G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population – and we risk leaving low-income countries behind.

‘Unless the UK urgently starts sharing its available doses to ensure others around the world are protected from the virus, the UK will not be safe from Covid-19.

‘Our vaccine rollout success could be reversed and the NHS could be fighting another wave of the virus due to deadly mutations.’

On Monday Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the way to prevent or minimise the number of new variants is to ‘get on top of’ the pandemic globally.

And the World Health Organization said there was a ‘shocking disparity’ in access to Covid vaccines between rich and poor countries.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing: ‘The shocking global disparity in access to Covid vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.

‘High and upper-middle income countries represent 53 per cent of the world’s population, but have received 83 per cent of the world’s vaccines.

‘By contrast, low and lower-middle income countries account for 47 per cent of the world’s population, but have received just 17 per cent of the world’s vaccines.’

He added: ‘How quickly we end the Covid pandemic and how many sisters and brothers we lose along on the way, depends on how quickly and how fairly we vaccinate a significant proportion of the population and how consistently we all follow proven public health measures.’



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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.

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…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.

 

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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested

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The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.

 

 

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