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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Sri Lanka extends COVID-19 lockdown to Oct 01

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ongoing COVID-19 lockdown has been extended till October 01, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said.

The minister tweeted Friday (17) morning following a COVID-19 committee meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that essential services will be permitted to operate during the lockdown period. He asked that the general public use the period to get the vaccinated against COVID-19.

He said guidelines and conditions for the extended period will be issued by health officials in due course.

Despite a drop in daily COVID-19 cases, Sri Lanka’s health sector is still overwhelmed and the country can only relax if new infections are brought down to the level seen before October 2020, a top health official said on Thursday.

Health Services Deputy Director Dr Hemantha Herath told reporters on Thursday (17) that the current rate of around 2,300 daily cases is “unbearable” and more than the overburdened health sector can handle at present.

“We have to bring down the current numbers even further. There was a time when all new cases we found were returnees from abroad with no patients identified locally. After that period, it was about 100 local cases a day.

“We need to go back to that level. I don’t know to what extent we will succeed in doing that, but we must try, because if we can’t handle 2,300 a day then it should be obvious that we can’t handle anything higher than that,” said Herath. (Colombo/Sep17/2021)

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Sri Lanka National Christian Council opposes Online Safety Bill

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) in a statement on the Online Safety Bill, said that the existing legal regime is adequate to deal with instances of harmful speech, making it unjustifiable to enact such “stringent laws”.

The Council called upon the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The body expressed “deep concern” over the proposed bill, detailing its potential to curtail freedom of speech and how, according to the Council, the piece of legislature is inconsistent with the principles of democracy.

“The bill proposes the establishment of an entity named the Online Safety Commission without provisions to guarantee its independence and impartiality,” the statement said.

Chapter 3 imposes restrictions on online communication of certain statements, many of which are vague and overbroad, leaving room for executive control and the curtailing of legitimate criticism and dissent that are basic features of democracy, the statement said.

“The laws granting wide discretion to the executive and its investigative agencies with expansive reach have been misused in the past.”

The Council said that the bill was not drafted with the process of public consultation and discussion, which might have ensured the bill would be less draconian in nature.

“The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka calls upon the government to withdraw this anti-human rights and anti-democratic bill immediately.” (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to implement new vehicle revenue licence issuing system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new system of issuing vehicle licences called eRL 2.0 is to be implemented in 5 provinces, excluding the Western Province, from 3 October onwards.

The new system is to be implemented beginning in the North West, South, North Central, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces, respectively. The existing vehicle licence issuing system eRL 1.0 will continue to be used in the Western Province.

The issuing of revenue licences islandwide at Department of Motor Traffic head offices and regional branches will be temporarily halted on October 2.

The facility of obtaining vehicle permits online will also be temporarily halted on 6 October till midnight.

The Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Provincial Motor Traffic Departments are working to modernize the current vehicle revenue license issuance system.

The implementation of the new eRL 2.0 system is expected to be an important step in the digitalisation of Sri Lanka. (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lankan Airlines flights cancelled as aircraft grounded

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines has apologized to passengers who were stranded as multiple aircraft were grounded at the same time.

The airline said it has strict procedures which requires aircraft to be grounded when technical issues are discovered.

“Unfortunately, in this case we suffered a number of groundings at the same time,” the airline said.

“We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience caused and assure all our loyal customers that we are working diligently to minimize such occurrences moving forward.”

The airline said it was booking passengers on other airlines while some have been accommodated at hotels. (Colombo/Sept30/2023)

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