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Thursday December 1st, 2022

Brandix workers probably got Covid from a foreign source – Minister

State Minister Dr Sudharshini Fernandopulle gets her appointment from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa/PMD handout

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s Minister tasked with dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic Dr Sudharshini Fernandopulle believes that staff at the Minuwangoda Brandix factory were infected with the virus by someone who came from overseas.

Fernandopulle, whose formal title is State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemiology and Coronavirus Disease Control, said probes “conducted from different angles” led the authorities to feel the strongest assumption was that the virus was transmitted from a person who was a visitor.

She was responding to a question raised by Opposition MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

Fernandopulle said further investigations revealed that a Ukrainian aircrew member who was accommodated in the Seeduwa Ramada hotel was infected with the virus while several staff members of the hotel also caught the bug.

“It was observed that the staff members of the hotel had several connections with the workers at the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda, so to a great extent, it can be assumed that’s how the virus got inside the factory,” she said.

Further, she said the analysis of the virus done at the Sri Jayewardenepura University by Prof Neelika Malavige revealed that the COVID-19 virus strain that spread from the Brandix factory across the country since October is different from the previous strain observed in the country and similar to a strain found in Europe.

She added that it was also a factor for the deduction made about the Ukrainian aircrew member.

More than 23,000 Covid positive cases in Sri Lanka has been traced to the cluster surrounding the factory which the Epidemiologists are calling the Minuwangoda-Peliyagoda cluster.

Joining the debate, Minister of Public Security retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara said detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) trying to find the source of the virus in the Brandix factory are yet to come to a final conclusion.

The investigation is being conducted as directed by the Attorney-General and has recorded over 100 statements from the infected workers.

From the statements, he said that it was revealed that some workers have kept on working in the factory taking Paracetamol tablets for the fever, in order to get the OT allowances

He added that over 20 CID officers and 70 CCD officers who were deployed for the investigations have been infected with COVID-19. (Colombo/Dec7/2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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Sri Lanka China-backed port to welcome second cruise ship

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s China-backed Hambantota Port said it was getting ready to welcome MV Azamara Quest, a cruise ship, as another passenger vessel departed.

Mein Schiff 5, operated by TUI had departed Hambantota International Port for Pulau Penang Island, Malaysia on November.

“As well as being her maiden call at the port, Mein Schiff 5 is the first passenger cruise ship to call at the port since the pandemic began,” said Johnson Liu, CEO of Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) said in a statement.

“It was undoubtedly a great boost for the tourist economy in the south when the vessel called at the Hambantota International Port.”

Mein Schiff 5’s passengers had also visited the Bundala National Park, Hambantota Botanical Gardens, Galle and Kataragama.

Passengers had explored Hambantota by tuk-tuk, while others had enjoyed the beaches in the Shangri La Hotel, the port said.

MV Azamara Quest will arrive in Hambanota on on December 05. (Colombo/Dec01/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

EXONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s shares gained in mid market trade on Thursday (1), pushed up by strong positive sentiments on interest rates easing in line with inflation and speculation on government to hold talks with multilateral creditors ADB and World Bank for a possible loan facility.

Market has continued to gain for the past four sessions.

“Shares were moving on positive strong sentiments flowing in from yesterday (30), we are seeing a rally in the hotels, while the retail favorites such as LIOC and Expolanka,” analysts said.

Positive investor sentiments have been established, from positive comments from the Governor of the Central Bank over market rates eventually seeing an ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

Analysts further stated that, Treasury related stocks are also activated due to downward movements in yield.

All Share Price Index (ASPI) gained by 1.4 percent or 123.41 points to 8,774.64, while the most liquid share gained by 1.31% or 35.68 points to 2,765.

The market generated a turnover of 1.6 billion rupees at 1130 hours. (Colombo/Dec1/2022)

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Sri Lanka electricity losses from overpriced fuel, no tariff hike considered: regulator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board’s high operating costs are partly due to excessive prices paid for fuel and no tariff hike is being considered, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, Janaka Ratnayake said.

The CEB itself does not buy fuel but depends on state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and Lanka Coal, another state firm to buy fuel. Both firms are periodically caught in procurement scandals.

“They are paying about 385 plus rupees per litre for furnace oil,” Ratnayaka told EconomyNext.

“That is too much. From the global market we can buy it to much lower price. It can be imported below 200 rupees,”

“I ask the government to take the necessary steps to create a system to import furnace oil, like they did for fuel, to be imported at the lower price levels. If that happens, we can go without going for a price hike.”

Sri Lanka’s CEB generally gets furnace oil and residual oil from the domestic refinery and usually do not import furnace oil.

The refinery however is not regularly operating due to inability to get crude amidst the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank.

Ratnayake had earlier brought to light import costs of the CPC.

Pushing for operations efficiency of the CEB is a role of the regulator. Regulating costs based on global benchmark prices to push for procurement efficiencies is a standard practice. However the PUCSL is not the official regulator of the petroleum sector.

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Sri Lanka power tariff revisions sought in Jan and July: Minister

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera told parliament that cabinet approval was sought to twice yearly tariff hikes in January and July of each year.

No Electricity tariff hikes are being considered yet, Ratnayake said.

Wijesekera blamed the regulator as well as successive administrations for not regularly revising power prices and pushing the sector into crisis.

In Sri Lanka activists had also blocked cheap coal power. (Colombo/Dec01/2022)

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