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Gotabaya orders Secretaries to “restart services”in the next few days

FILE PHOTO – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa meeting with officials/PMD photo

ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has told Secretaries to Ministries to restart state and private sector services in the next few days, a communique issued by the Presidential Secretariat said.

This includes developmental activities and businesses important to the local economy according to the statement issued late last evening April 15.

Restoring the local economy is the priority, the statement said.

These activities have to be done while following the guidelines laid down by the Health Department to prevent the spread of  COVID 19.

It did not specify exactly when these instructions are to be implemented and normalcy restored.

Several high-ranking government officials including Army Chief Lt General Shavendra Silva and Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi have hinted that the strict regime enforced by the state to restrict the movement of people due to the COVID 19 pandemic will be relaxed after April 20.

The President’s order is to “protect civilian life and the local economy.”

The Ministry Secretaries and the heads of departments and other institutions will be responsible to ensure that employees follow guidelines laid out by the Health Authorities to prevent the spread of COVID 19, the statement said.

The government machinery will be expected to restart agriculture, fisheries and business activities.

The President has urged officials to ensure that export-oriented activities, particularly the improvement of agricultural exports be further developed and all assistance to those engaged in these activities.

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Developmental activities halted due to the health precautions enforced due to the COVID 19 epidemic have to resume including the 100,000 road construction program the communique said.

All of the country is under curfew from tonight until the morning of April 20, according to a statement issued earlier yesterday.

The curfew in the “High-Risk” Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy and Jaffna Districts will stay in place indefinitely.

The Health authorities have stated that due to the successful quarantine regime, most of the at-risk persons for contracting the coronavirus are in hospitals or placed at the quarantine centres.

The bulk of the recent cases that have been detected have been from these centres.

Five more positive cases of COVID 19 were detected yesterday according to a statement from the Department of Information last night bringing the national total since the outbreak to 238.

Four out of the 5 were already in quarantine and the 5th patient was in hospital under observation, the statement said. Two patients were from the Palali quarantine centre in Jaffna, it added.

The government is also under pressure to restore economic activity as businesses and people, particularly the daily wage earners, are running out of cash for their daily necessities.

There is also a possibility that the government will try to hold the Parliamentary General election at the end of May to avoid a possible constitutional crisis and have a new Parliament meet by June 2nd.

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana (Colombo, April 16, 2020)