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WHO brainstorming meeting among public health experts: Observations and recommendations



Covid-19 surge in Sri Lanka

Public health experts representing diverse specialties held a brainstorming meeting convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Sri Lanka to discuss the current spike in cases in Sri Lanka recently, according to a media statement issued by the WHO Colombo Office. The key observations and recommendations to policy and decision-makers indicated below are documented based on proceedings and the consensus achieved at the meeting. The views expressed on the situation are those of the experts and do not necessarily reflect those of WHO.

The following crucial factors were considered:

The COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka is very likely to get worse over the next few weeks. The decisions we take NOW will affect the lives of millions of Sri Lankans. Therefore, the next 3-4 weeks are critical in controlling transmission and saving lives.

The epidemiological trend of the past weeks shows a rapid exponential increase in the number of cases, this trend is likely to continue for some time if no effective interventions are made.

There is a lag of 1-2 weeks between infection and case detection and a further lag of an additional 2-3 weeks between an increase of reported cases and an increase in reported ICU admissions and deaths. Thus, the deaths and ICU admissions we are seeing now are the consequence of infections that took place at the early stage of this third wave (3-4 weeks ago).

The public sector health system is stretched to the limit, making it difficult to manage COVID-19 cases as well as other essential services. More health professionals and preventive staff (e.g. PHIs) are getting infected and HR policies need to be geared to meet the urgency. There is a “tipping point” beyond which the system can rapidly go out of control. 

The more transmissible and severe variants detected in India and other variants have already been detected in the country, these can spread faster and may even circumvent vaccine-induced immunity.

Vaccines will be crucial to controlling the epidemic in the medium-term but will not address the immediate crisis we now face. Some vaccines are only effective after the second dose. Therefore, it will take a minimum of 6-8 weeks to see the effects of vaccination in the number of new cases.

In the context of the above, there are two URGENT actions we can take to save lives – stop new infections as effectively as possible and prepare for the predictable increase in severe cases and deaths.


Globally, evidence shows that strict and immediate measures to restrict mobility are the only measures that quickly and drastically reduce cases. Sri Lanka will also benefit from strict mobility restrictions whilst maintaining major economic activities and essential services. There is a need to stop inter-district travel and introduce severe restrictions on non-essential human mobilities and the congregation of people. Universal adherence to ‘precautions’ such as appropriate masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding the 3Cs – crowds, confined and enclosed spaces, and close-contact settings is a must. High transmission areas must be shut down for 2-3 weeks to stop or limit transmission. There should be a national mobilization effort to accelerate vaccination.


Reconsider the management of asymptomatic cases, revise clinical management protocol to include home management.  Increase focus on intermediate care centres to detect cases early, properly monitor patients, and appropriately manage cases, thereby minimizing the need for more intensive care. Prepare for an increase in hospitalization and the need for adequate HDU and ICU care.


Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, WHO Consultant and WHO Director-General’s Special Envoy For COVID-19 Preparedness and Response for SEAR 

Prof. Malik Peiris, Chair/Professor – School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Medicine, Hong Kong

Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician and Past President of the College of Physicians

Prof. Neelika Malavige, Professor and Head, Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, Sri Jayewardenepura University

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne  

Public Health Specialist,  President- Sarvodaya (CSO)

Dr. Padma Gunaratne, Consultant Neuro Physician and President, Sri Lanka Medical Association

Prof.  Indika Karunathilake, Prof. in Medical Education, Department of Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine and Former President – SLMA

Prof. Asita de Silva, Senior Professor of Pharmacology, University of Kelaniya and President, Sri Lanka Association of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Prof. Manuj Weerasinghe , Professor in Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo 

Dr. LakKumar Fernando, Consultant Pediatrician and President, Association of Medical Specialists

Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe, Consultant in Community Medicine and Former Chief Epidemiologist in Sri Lanka and President of the College of Community Physicians in Sri Lanka

Prof. Saroj Jayasinghe, Consultant Physician and former Prof. of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo 

Prof. Kamini Mendis , Professor Emeritus, University of Colombo; Public Health Expert and former WHO Malaria expert  

Dr. Olivia Nieveras, Officer In-Charge, WHO Sri Lanka 

Dr. Sapumal Dhanapala, WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Padmal de Silva, WHO Sri Lanka

Prof. Nalika Gunawardena, WHO Sri Lanka

Mr. T  Suveendran, WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Preshila Samaraweera, WHO Sri Lanka

Ms. Sahani Chandraratna, WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Mizaya Cader, WHO Sri Lanka

Ms. Sadhani Rajapakse, WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Anjalee De Silva, WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Roshan Sampath , WHO Sri Lanka

Dr. Shreenika De Silva, WHO Sri Lanka

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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL




The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969



The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?



By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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