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Tuesday November 29th, 2022

Contacts of Sri Lanka COVID19 patient in strict self-quarantine to contain spread

Health officials in Sri Lanka have identified some 50 people who were in close contact with the first confirmed domestic COVID-19 patient and instructed them to go into strict self-quarantine.

“Now that we have detected the first local case, we want to make sure that no more cases rise out of it,” a Health Ministry official told EconomyNext.

Patient-1 is is a 52-year-old male tour guide who is confirmed to have contracted the virus locally. The Italian-speaking Colombo resident had reportedly been travelling with a group of Italian tourists. Italy is second only to China in terms of confirmed novel coronavirus cases, with some 10,000 patients reported so far.

The Sri Lankan patient is currently undergoing treatment at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) hospital in Angoda while his family is under quarantine.

Health Ministry Director General Dr Anil Jasinghe said in a statement earlier that the government is doing all it can to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Sri Lanka does not have adequate, permanent quarantine facilities at present but is using the Batticaloa Campus and the Kandakaddu rehabilitation center in Welikanda to temporarily quarantine passengers arriving from high risk countries: namely Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“We don’t have quarantine centers as such, but we have prepared some quarantine centers in an ad hoc manner to quarantine foreigners coming from extremely high risk countries. Even now, the facilities are getting saturated,” said the Health Ministry official.

A Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) official told EconomyNext that, as of yesterday, 588 people who came out of the BIA have been quarantined, a vast majority of whom are Sri Lankan.

Three of these are from Iran and 170 are from South Korea, while the rest are all from Italy.

“We don’t know how far we can go and also getting the basic facilities to such places is not only expensive but logistically a difficult task,” lamented the health ministry official.

The official also emphasised that quarantining large numbers of people at the same time will be institutionally impractical.

“We have to start small,” he added.

Those under strict self-quarantine will be inspected by public health inspectors and doctors on a daily basis or once every two days if it proves inconvenient, said the official.

“The public health staff is monitoring them to ensure that they are strictly adhering to these quarantine procedures; that is the first step.”

As a second step, he said, people who had close contacts with those identified are requested to remain vigilant.

“We have advised them to report to a hospital if they find any symptoms,” he added.

Other measures taken by the health ministry include restricting arrivals from high risk countries and actively discouraging tours, pilgrimages, public gatherings and conferences both national and international.

“Unfortunately, people coming here from high risk countries are Sri Lankans and we cannot restrict their movement,” the ministry official said.

Meanwhile, Director Chief operations Airport and Aviation Services Sri Lanka Shehan Sumanasekara said a new system is in place at the BIA to transport passengers directly from the aerobridge itself to the quarantine centres.

Manifests have been obtained from all airlines operating inbound flights for this purpose, he said.

“Anybody who has boarded a particular flight, even if it is on transit from Iran, South Korea or Italy, we will get them down at the aerobridge itself and take them to the domestic terminal without mixing them with other passengers,” said Sumanasekara, emphasising that such passengers will be segregated from the rest.


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A new Sri Lanka monetary law may have prevented 2019 tax cuts?

ECONOMYNEXT – A new monetary law planned in 2019, if it had been enacted may have prevented the steep tax cuts made in that year which was followed by unprecedented money printing, ex-Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said.

The bill for the central bank law was ready in 2019 but the then administration ran out of parliamentary time to enact it, he said.

Economists backing the new administration slashed taxes in December 2019 and placed price controls on Treasuries auctions bought new and maturing securities, claiming that there was a ‘persistent output gap’.

Coomaraswamy said he keeps wondering whether “someone sitting in the Treasury would have implemented those tax cuts” if the law had been enacted.

“We would never know,” he told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The new law however will sill allow open market operations under a highly discretionary ‘flexible’ inflation targeting regime.

A reserve collecting central bank which injects money to push down interest rates as domestic credit recovers triggers forex shortages.

The currency is then depreciated to cover the policy error through what is known as a ‘flexible exchange rate’ which is neither a clean float nor a hard peg.

From 2015 to 2019 two currency crises were triggered mainly through open market operations amid public opposition to direct purchases of Treasury bills, analysts have shown.

Sri Lanka’s central bank generally triggers currency crises in the second or third year of the credit cycle by purchasing maturing bills from existing holders (monetizing the gross financing requirement) as private loan demand pick up and not necessarily to monetize current year deficits, critics have pointed out.

Past deficits can be monetized as long as open market operations are permitted through outright purchases of bill in the hands of banks and other holders.

In Latin America central banks trigger currency crises mainly by their failure to roll-over sterilization securities. (Colombo/Nov29/2022)

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Sri Lanka cabinet clears CEB re-structure proposal: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has cleared proposals by a committee to re-structure state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijeskera said.

“Cabinet approval was granted today to the recommendations proposed by the committee on Restructuring CEB,” he said in a message.

“The Electricity Reforms Bill will be drafted within a month to begin the unbundling process of CEB & work on a rapid timeline to get the approval of the Parliament needed.”

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board finances had been hit by failure to operate cost reflective tariffs and there are capacity shortfalls due to failure to implement planned generators in time. (Colombo/Nov28/2022)

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Sri Lanka new CB law to cabinet soon as IMF prior action

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new central bank law will be submitted to the cabinet as a prior action of International Monetary Fund with clauses to improve governance and legalize ‘flexible’ inflation targeting, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

Under the new law members of the monetary board will be appointed by the country’s Constitutional Council replacing the current system of the Finance Minister making appointments.

“It will be a bipartisan approach,” Governor Weerasinghe told an investor forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, Colombo-based brokerage.

“The central bank’s ability to finance the budget deficit will be taken out. Thirdly the flexible inflation targeting regime will be recognized in the law as the framework.”

The law will also make macro-prudential surveillance formally under the bank.

There will be two governing boards, one for the management of the agency and one to conduct monetary policy.

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