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Wednesday June 19th, 2024

China techies in Sri Lanka to fix Coronavirus PCR machines as Covid-19 spreads

ECONOMYNEXT – Technicians from a company in China that has manufactured a high capacity Coronavirus PCR machine that is currently out of order has arrived in the country, the Chinese embassy in Colombo said.

“We learn that technicians from the #PCRtest manu company have landed tonight at #Colombo via the nearest flight, upon the emergent request from #SriLankan (sic),” the Chinese embassy in Colombo said in a message.

“So far the malfunction reason not clear. Other machines will also be checked & maintained, after 24/7 running for months.”

Sri Lanka has conducted over 11,000 tests over the past two days despite the broken machines.


Sri Lanka confirms 633 Coronavirus patients, Covid-19 total tops 10,000 amid rising concerns

PCR machines have been running flat out since the beginning of October when the first contact was found.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 633 Coronavirus patients on October 30, taking the total over 10,424 official data showed, amid delays in giving test results, as authorities gave up institutionalized quarantine.

“There are several hundred patients being reported each day,” Chief Epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera told reporters.

“It is also spreading fast. It is now in practically all districts.”

He urged people to limit movements.

Sri Lanka has avoided a nation-wide curfew.

With resources being increasingly strained local television is carrying reports of persons on whom PCR tests being done being sent home and confirmed patients waiting for admission.

Sri Lanka has 43 hospitals and second tier treatment facilities and another one will come on stream on October 30, Deputy Director of Health Hemanthe Herath told reporters.

Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau said 11,560 tests were carried out on October 30, the highest daily total so far, up from 11,080 a day earlier and 8,680 a week earlier.

“We are conducting more tests daily despite one of the PCR machines at the IDH being out of order,” Deputy Director of Health Hemanthe Herath told reporters.

“We expect to repair it over the weekend.”

The Colombo Municipality is carrying out large numbers of tests, and is finding more patients. On October 29, 37 patients were confirmed in Kotahena, 32 in Mattakkuliya and 20 in Dematagoda.

But there are warnings that testing is limited in other areas.

“In Kurunegala in Wayamba there were only 50 swabs given to carry out PCR tests in the community,” Haritha Aluthge from the Government Medical Officer’s Association told reporters.

The GMOA says there is a backlog of 20,000 swabs to be tested and generally there is a 2.5 percent rate of confirmation.

“In some cases results have been delayed by a week,” Aluthge said. “This is an unfortunate situation. In some area no swabs have been given for community testing.”

Researchers in Vietnam, one of the most successful countries in controlling Covid says there is 6-day window for tracers to isolate contacts before it spreads to the next level. Coronavirus has an incubation period of between 2 to 14 days.

From level to level the spread is exponential. A lockdown and home quarantine, slows the spread and institutionalized quarantine with fast testing can completely kill an outbreak.

Over the week Sri Lanka also dropped institutionalized quarantine and resorted to home quarantine as numbers grew.

Under home quarantine, contacts who are going through the incubation period tends to infects other family members, parents and grandparents as they develop the disease at home, increasing the number of positive cases, not counting leaks, observers familiar with East Asia say.

Korea which uses home quarantine has a steady trickle of deaths (461 up to October 30) compared to 35 for Vietnam which uses institutional quarantine all of which came from a July-August outbreak.

Sri Lanka is converting former quarantine facilities to treatment centres as numbers rise.

Aluthge said based on information reaching the GMOA, results of about 3,000 tests are awaited in Matara and in some areas 5 to 6 days delays are being seen.

Sri Lanka has now locked down the entire Gampaha district, after initially putting curfews in areas close to Minuwangoda.

At the time authorities insisted that all contacts including those who were turning up in hospital independently without being traced had some link to the Minuwangoda cluster.

The fish market cluster was then discovered around October 20, and large numbers of persons were found in North Colombo. Officials then said cross infections may have taken place.

Sri Lanka has now also locked down parts of the capital Colombo which are densely populated.

So far only the Killinochchi district has had no infections.

However Aluthge said with weak testing of the community, there could be more infections in the country than is seen.

On Saturday reports said a woman patient had turned up positive in a hospital in the South from Galle.

Since symptomatic patients are only a small proportion of the total, such patients points to the existence of another sub-cluster.

But in many districts the disease is spreading though public health officials are actively chasing contacts.

In Karandeniya area more patients linked to a fish vendor were found.

Public Health Inspector Rohana Thennakoon asked anyone who had bought fish from the vendors in the past few days to report to them.

“There is a high risk of anyone who had bought fish from catching the disease,” he said.

On October 30, reports said 08 patients were found in Eheliyagoda linked to the fish market and Colombo Dockyard clusters.

Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana said so far about 60 police officers had got infected and 300 are under quarantine.

The first infected persons had first got the disease from purchasing fish for police canteens, he said.

Meanwhile officials said in Colombo’s lower income flats, the disease was spreading despite the curfews. (Colombo/Oct30/2020)


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Central banks expect to increase gold reserves after buying 1,037 tonnes in 2023: Survey

ECONOMYNEXT – About 29 percent of central banks in the world intended to increase their gold reserves in 2023, up from 24 percent in 2023 and just 8 percent in 2019, a survey by the World Gold Council showed.

“The planned purchases are chiefly motivated by a desire to rebalance to a more preferred strategic level of gold holdings, domestic gold production, and financial market concerns including higher crisis risks and rising inflation,” the WGC said.

About 81 percent of 70 central banks that responded to the survey expected global central bank holdings of gold to go up, from 71 percent in 2023.

While in prior years, gold’s “historical position” was the top reason for central banks to hold gold, this factor dropped significantly to number five this year.

This year, the top reason for central banks to hold gold is “long-term store of value / inflation hedge” (88%), followed by “performance during times of crisis” (82%), “effective portfolio diversifier” (75%) and “no default risk” (72%).

Concerns about sanctions were listed as by 23 percent of emerging market central banks (0 advanced).

De-dollarization as a reason to hold gold gained ground, but was not among the main reasons.

About 13 percent of emerging market central banks listed de-dollarization as one of the reasons to buy gold up from 11 percent last year and 6 advanced nations said the same from zero last year.

Around 49 percent of central banks expected gold reserves to be moderately lower five year from now in the 2024 survey, against 49 percent in 2023 and 38 percent in 2022.

About 13 percent of central banks surveyed said US dollar reserves would be significantly lower in the 2024 survey, up from 5 percent in 2023 and 4 percent in 2022. (Colombo/June18/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 304.75/305.40 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed weaker at 304.75/305.40 to the US dollar Tuesday, down from 304.15 to the US dollar Friday, dealer said, while some bond yields edged up.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has weakened amid unsterilized excess liquidity from earlier dollar purchases.

Excess liquidity fell from as high as 200 billion rupees, helped by some sales of maturing bills and also allowing some term contracts to run out.

However the central bank has started to inject liquidity again below its policy rate to suppress interest rates.

On Tuesday 30 billion rupees was printed overnight at an average yield of only 8.73 percent.

Separately another 25 billion rupees was printed till June 25 at 8.09 percent to 9.05 percent, which was still below overnight the policy rate of 9.5 percent.

Nobody has so far taken the central bank to court for printing money beyond overnight at rates lower than the overnight rate.

Sri Lanka operates an ad hoc exchange rate regime called ‘flexible exchange rate’ which triggers panic among market participants, as the central bank stays away when spikes in credit either creates import demand or unsterilized credit is used up.

“If large volumes of unsterilized liquidity is left, the exchange rate has to be closely defended to prevent speculation involving early covering of import bills and late selling of exports proceeds,” EN’s economic columnist Bellwether says.

“Just as an appreciating or stable exchange rate leads to late covering of import bills, a falling rates leads to immediate covering of import bills.

“Keeping exchange rates stable is a relatively simple exercise but it is difficult to do so if short term rates are also closely targeted with printed money, as liquidity runs out, as if the country had a free float and no reserve target.”

“When there is a large volume of excess liquidity remaining (except those voluntary deposited for long periods by risk averse banks) the the interest rates structure is under-stated compared to the reported reserves.

“Interest rates would be a little higher than seen in the market if the liquidity was mopped up and domestic credit and imports were blocked to prevent the reserves from being used up.”

In East Asia there is greater knowledge of central bank operational frameworks, though International Monetary Fund driven flawed doctrine are also threatening the monetary stability of those countries, critics say.


Vietnam selling SBV bills to stabilize the Dong, as Sri Lanka rupee also weakens

Sri Lanka’s rupee started to collapse steeply after the IMF’s Second Amendment in 1978 along with many other countries as flawed operational frameworks gained ground without a credible anchor.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.10/30 percent up from 10.05/30 percent Friday.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2027 closed at 10.60/57 flat from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 11.15/35 percent, up from 11.05/20 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 11.80/90 percent unchanged.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2030 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A maturing on 10.12.2031 closed at 11.95/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed at down at 11.95/12.10 percent, down from 12.00/10 percent. (Colombo/Jun14/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber links up with Gujarat Chamber

ECONOMYNEXT – The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has signed an agreement with the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) to increase trade cooperation between India and Sri Lanka.

The MOU was signed by CCC CEO Buwanekabahu Perera, SGCCI President Ramesh Vaghasia, in the presence of Dr Valsan Vethody, Consul General for Sri Lanka in Mumbai, India.

“With the signing of the MoU, … the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and SGCCI aim to facilitate trade between the two countries via initiatives such as trade fairs and delegations, business networking events, training programmes,” the Ceylon Chamber said in a statement.

“This partnership will open doors for Sri Lankan businesses to explore opportunities in Surat’s dynamic market and enable the sharing of expertise and resources between the two regions.”

Established in 1940, SGCCI engages with over 12,000 members and indirect ties with more than 2,00,000 members via 150 associations. It promotes trade, commerce, and industry in South Gujarat.

The region’s commercial and economic centre Surat has risen to prominence as the global epicenter for diamond cutting and as India’s textile hub, and is ranked the world’s 4th fastest growing city with a GDP growth rate of 11.5%

Surat’s economic landscape is vibrant and diverse. As India’s 8th largest and Gujarat’s 2nd largest city, it boasts the highest average annual household income in the country.

The nearby Hazira Industrial Area hosts major corporations like Reliance, ESSAR, SHELL, and L&T. (Colombo/Jun18/2024)

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