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Vaccination alone not a magic bullet to end pandemic



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Vaccination was not a silver bullet, and it had to be supplemented by other initiatives to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof Manuj Weerasinghe, Head of the Department of Community Medicine, University of Colombo, said.

Boosting immunity was vital for overcoming any virus, and vaccine played a big role in the fight against COVID-19, he said. However, vaccines alone were not the only way to overcome the pandemic, the Professor said.

“If we think we can get out through this crisis by vaccination alone, we won’t do the other initiatives needed, we won’t educate the people on what they really need to do, in fact we will give people the wrong idea that everything is good after getting vaccinated. Vaccination is important. It’s very clear that it saves lives and reduced the severity of the disease. However, vaccination won’t stop you getting infected or spreading it to others,” he said.

Prof. Weerasinghe said that the role and purpose of the vaccination was not properly understood by the people and when they got infected, after getting double jabbed, they assumed that the vaccine they had taken was not effective.

“This is why some people say on social media that they got the X vaccine and still they got COVID. They then go on to discredit the vaccine they had taken. This is bad for everyone. The government needs to communicate properly. Because of our over reliance on vaccine, both policy makers and the people are not doing what is needed to stop the pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile Professor Chrishantha Abeysena, Senior Professor Department of Public Health, University of Kelaniya said when the decision to lockdown was taken too late; more time was needed to open the country again.

“As with everything in life, we have to make the call at the right time. I think everyone agrees that at least two weeks is needed for a lockdown to have some effect. However just because we imposed a lockdown doesn’t mean that things are going to work out fine, especially given that we are not seeing a strict lockdown,” he said.

Prof. Abeysena said that the government had to increase testing because there was community spread. Those infected needed to be found, they needed to be isolated along with their first contacts, he said.

“If we do this, we can get the pandemic under control. There is a WHO protocol on lockdowns and given that there is a community spread, the pandemic had become a social issue too. Hospital capacity is still a big problem,” he said,

Prof. Abeysena added that Sri Lanka now needed to figure out how it could operate after the lockdowns were lifted. The policy makers should come up with systems and protocols and communicate effectively with the general public, he said.

“If we don’t do this, there is no point in extending the lockdown even for another month. We also need to do testing and isolation. If we do this the numbers will drop and the health staff will get a breather. However, we must ensure that there are practical protocols after we open up. We are now at a disaster stage, although we had time to get ready. We have 18 months of living with the virus and we need to start learning lessons,” he said.

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Sacked PUCSL Chairman fights back, writes to Prez



Former PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake yesterday showing the media a document at a news conference called by him in Colombo. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday wrote to President Wickremesinghe denying all allegations levelled against him.

Earlier in the day, Ratnayake received a note informing of his removal from the PUCSL.

“I write in response to your above captioned letter dated 22 March 2023. At the outset I strongly deny all and singular the several allegations contained against me in your letter under reference,” he said.

The PUCSL Chairman said his letter contained a detailed response..

“I was given an extremely short period of one week, despite the serious consequences that could flow from the misconceived allegations made against me,” Ratnayake said.

He said that the PUCSL was not a rubber stamp for proposals put forward by the Electricity Industry including the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

“But the PUCSL should duly exercise its powers and functions as an independent regulator even when the consequent decision reached by it may be one which is not desired by the CEB or the Government,” he said.

Ratnayake said that the PUCSL acting independently has resulted in the Minister of Power and Energy being unable at times to act at his whim and fancy.

“This appears to have irked the Minister of Power and Energy, and also the President. In May 2022, the secretary to the President had phoned my personal assistant instructing her to “ask the Chairman of the Commission to refrain from making any announcement or statement contradicting the speech made by the Prime Minister.”

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Singer Sri Lanka bags top awards



Singer Sri Lanka PLC clinched the People’s Brand of the Year and Durable Brand of the Year Awards for the 17th consecutive year at the SLIM-KANTAR Awards held at the Monarch Imperial on 27th March, 2023. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Chairman Mohan Pandithage receiving the award from Chief Guest, Sri Lanka Test Cricket Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Guest of Honour, Past President-SLIM Kalana Ratnayake at the glittering ceremony. Singer Sri Lanka PLC CEO Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Shanil Perera, Marketing Manager, Piyum Jayathilaka and other senior officials were present. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

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SJB trade unionist calls for significant fuel price reduction



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Convenor of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) trade union wing, Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance, Ananda Palitha yesterday (28) said that with the appreciation of rupee against the USD and comparatively lower crude prices in the world market, the government could reduce the price of litre of petrol (92 Octane) and diesel by as much as Rs 100 and petrol (95 Octane) by Rs 125.

The trade unionist said that the price of a litre of kerosene, furnace oil and naphtha, too, could be decreased by Rs 100 each.

Responding to The Island queries, the former Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) employee said that fuel prices should be revised as fast as possible for the benefit of the public.

Lanka IOC should follow the new pricing formula, the former UNP trade union leader said, strongly urging the government to re-examine the petroleum sector. It would be pertinent to mention that petroleum and water sectors, too, should be brought under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in terms of PUC Act No 35 of 2002, Ananda Palitha said.

Former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that he was out of the country.

Therefore, I couldn’t comment without studying the latest developments.

Ananda Palitha found fault with political parties represented in parliament for the inordinate delay in fully implementing the Act that was meant to regulate three vital sectors. The PUC received authority to regulate the electricity industry, in terms of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, Palitha said. However, respective Acts, pertaining to Petroleum and Water, were yet to be passed by Parliament, the trade union leader said pointing out that the delay on the part of the parliament seemed deliberate.

Asked whether they opposed the further liberalisation of retail market with the entry of more foreign companies, Ananda Palitha said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was exploiting the current political-economic-social crisis to advance the original agenda of Wickremesinghe.

“We are facing a frightening situation,” the SJB activist said, urging political parties represented in parliament to review rapid developments taking place. The entry of four foreign entities should be examined against the backdrop of Lanka IOC further expanding its operations here, Ananda Palitha said.

The outspoken trade unionist warned against moves to gradually weaken Sapugaskanda oil refinery to pave the way for increased import of refined products. “The refinery that launched operations in 1969 during Dudley Senbanayake’s era received the attention of President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. But, since then no President paid attention to the facility,” Ananda Palitha said. Instead of enhancing its capacity, successive governments were working overtime to weaken it for obvious reasons, the trade unionist said.

According to him, all were attacking Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera over the continuing crisis in the petroleum sector. “We should question President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Cabinet-of-Ministers headed by the President and the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee,” Ananda Palitah said.

Ananda Palitha said that political parties as well as some trade unions should accept responsibility for the pathetic situation in the petroleum sector. For want of a cohesive action plan, politicians and interested parties regardless of on and off setbacks were able to pursue their agendas detrimental to Sri Lanka, he said.

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