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Sunday August 14th, 2022

“Doubtful” data has led to diminished public concern over COVID-19 in Sri Lanka: GMOA

ECONOMYNEXT – With ongoing issues in PCR testing and alleged doubts over officially declining case numbers, public concern over COVID-19 has diminished in Sri Lanka even as the virus continues to spread, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said.

GMOA general committee member Prasad Kolabage said the spread of the different variants of the virus may have increased in areas outside the western province undetected.

Though vaccination has taken place, the danger of the virus persists, he added.

“Everyone’s depending solely on vaccination,” Kolabage told reporters Wednesday (14).

“It will certainly provide some protection. However, the danger remains,” he said, calling for increased daily PCR and rapid antigen testing.

From July 06, health authorities haven’t exceeded 14,000 PCR tests a day. On Thursday (15), only 13,723 PCRs and 3,614 rapid antigen tests were carried out.

“It appears the general public is increasingly neglecting health guidelines,” said Kolabage.

Authorities should also focus on testing the immunity level of vaccinated people and take measures to boost immunity if the vaccines don’t provide adequate protection, Kolabage said, though he did not elaborate on how this might be achieved.

Meanwhile, President of the Joint Council for Professions of Supplementary Medicine Ravi Kumudesh accused the health ministry of being unconcerned with increasing testing.

“We have offered many solutions to the problem of increasing PCR testing, but it seems the MoH doesn’t want to increase the numbers,” Kumudesh told reporters.

“We persuaded the government to give us portable PCR machines to increase efficiency and to mimimise delays of test results on dead bodies and delays in provincial PCR results in reaching the epidemiology unit. The government allocated funds to purchase the equipment. But for a month and a half, it seems the MoH has been passing the ball among themselves without acquiring the machines,” he said.

As case numbers decreased, authorities have neglected their duties as was the case on previous occasions, Kumudesh charged.

“The collection of samples has dropped significantly. Some hospitals have stopped PCR testing altogether,” he said.

“Rapid antigen testing is disorganised, so any data from those tests are somewhat questionable. Decisions taken on such questionable data can possibly lead us back to a situation similar to the New Year cluster in the next three to four weeks,” he warned.

Kumudesh further said members of the public must take necessary precautions without relying on official data.

“We cannot say the spreading has gone down or the number of patients has gone down. Your safety is in your hands,” he said.

“We have suggested ways to increase PCR tests to 75,000, and the government has allocated provisions for some of the solutions we have provided, but the MoH is not taking action to implement these proposals,” said Kumudesh.

“They have once again neglected this decease, and the results will be seen in the future,” he added. (Colombo/Jul16/2021)

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Sri Lanka jet fuel shortages costing SriLankan Airlines US$7mmn a month

ECONOMYNEXT – A shortage of jet fuel in the country due to forex shortages is costing the state-run SriLankan Airlines an extra 7 million US dollars a month, though the airline is operating most of its schedule, an official said.

“Now we are running 90 percent of our flights even though there is no fuel in the country which is costing us about 7 million US dollars per month in extra and lost revenue,” Richard Nuttall, the Chief Commercial Officer of SriLanka Airlines told Economy Next at the sidelines of a media brief.

“To carry the extra fuel, we can’t carry all the freight we like to into the country.”

SriLankan Airlines was stopping at third countries like India to load up on fuel for long haul destinations.

Carrying fuel for the return journey, a tactic known as tinkering, forces an airline to cut down freight

The hit from fuel came after the airline SriLankan reported a profit of 1.7 million US dollars in the March 2022 quarter for the first time since 2006, after cutting costs such as staff costs and overheads; renegotiating supplier contracts and increasing cargo revenue.

Nuttall said few months ago they were not sure of even operating 30-40 percent of the flights due to lack of sufficient jet fuel in the country.

The state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation could not import enough jet fuel due to forex shortages coming from a broken soft-peg. Sri Lanka is currently undergoing the worst currency crises in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank.

The Ministry of Energy has said it had appointed a third party to import jet fuel.

“Its not sustainable but we have maintained operations,” Nuttall said. “We understand we will be getting jet fuel very soon.”

The currency collapse had reduced the spending power of holiday makers in Sri Lanka while tourists were also put off by fuel shortages and popular protests.

“While the tourist numbers are not that great there’s demand from Sri Lanka diaspora, Indians,” Nuttall said.

He says being a small airline has allowed them to be nimble and shift capacity.

“If we are getting more demand from one destination, we will put more flights there.”

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices continue to climb

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s average coconut prices grew 3.7 percent to 64,618.23 rupees for 1,000 nuts at the last auction held on Friday August 12, official data showed.

The highest price was 62,900 rupees for 1,000 nuts, while the lowest was 57,000 rupees at the auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority.

Buyers offered 1,019,395 nuts at the auction and sold 576,906.

Exports of coconut-based products have risen by 12 percent in January to June to 434.48 million dollars from a year earlier, data show. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Chinese tracking vessel cleared to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given the green light to Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5 to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22.

Sri Lankan authorities had first given clearance to the Chinese vessel on July 12, to make a port call at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17​ for replenishment purposes.

However, following a diplomatic standoff after concern about the tracking vessel’s anticipated arrival were reportedly raised by the US and India, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested China to defer the port call until “further consultations”.

A report by Sri Lanka’s privately owned Times Online news website said Saturday August 13 morning that the foreign ministry has authorised the docking of the ship.


Sri Lanka permits entry to controversial Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5

The ministry’s official statement released Saturday evening confirmed that the ship has been given clearance to dock at the Hambantota Port for the new dates August 16 to 22.

“The Ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people,” the ministry said, without naming the stakeholder countries. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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