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Sunday July 14th, 2024

Sri Lanka in first Covid-19 death, new lockdown as Coronavirus count goes to 115 – Update

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded its first COVID-19 death yesterday as the country remained under curfew overnight and a restriction remained imposed on foreign arrivals.

The ban on arrivals was extended till April 07 by the island’s Civil Aviation Authority to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We found a person in Akurana who had come from abroad,” General Shavendra Silva, who heads an anti-Covid task force told Sri Lanka’s Sirasa TV.

“Until we find the contacts we have blocked the town. We have also found a person in Puttalam who had been to Thailand.”

Indefinite curfew will continue in Colombo, Gampaha, Kaluthra Puttalam, Jaffna and Kandy, the President’s media office said.


Sri Lanka extends indefinite curfew to Kandy and Puttalam, Akurana under lockdown

Inter-district travel is banned except for essential services.

Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry said the total confirmed cases rose to 115 while 199 were under observation at designated hospitals around the country.

Sri Lanka has discharged nine patients from hospital including a Wave I patient from China.

The patient who died had a history of high blood pressure and blood sugar, the head of Sri Lanka’s Health Service Anil Jasinghe said.

Coronavirus patients have to be cremated or buried in a grave 8 feet deep, under supervision of the Judicial Medical Officer of the area, Medical Officer of Health and police, Jasinghe told Derana, a privately run television station.

The remains have to be sealed in a body bag, he said.

Two members of the family would be allowed to view the body, he said.

Permit Raj, Price controls bite

Sri Lanka intensified state controls on food distribution on Friday and Saturday with a price control agency disrupting activities, reports said while private pharmacies were banned from selling drugs directly to customers.

Activities at several economic centres were at a low ebb on Sunday, television reports said.

Sri Lanka had started a permit system and the Consumer Affairs Authority, a price control agency that has become an obstacle to economic activities in ordinary times had also disrupted economic activities Friday with price controls.

Colombo’s Manning market saw a high level of demand on Friday with new buyers and sellers coming in, until the CAA slapped price controls, and officials were seen berating traders on national television.

On Sunday to reduce demand and keep prices down outsiders had been reduced, a reporter said on Derana TV.

The CAA had earlier generated a tinned fish shortage by slapping a price control in a country that was already hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Any entrepreneur who suffers losses due to state price controls would want to do business another day.

In another state oriented move, only state pharmacies were allowed to sell drugs directly to consumers.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called on restrictions to be relaxed on Saturday but did not directly abandon attempt to centralise control or distribution.

A wide gap exists between Sri Lanka’s economic policies including monetary policy and the health department, public health officers, military and health officers, who have been contact chasing.

Sri Lanka PM asks Covid-19 food delivery blocks to be cleared amid permit raj

Sri Lanka bans private pharmacies selling drugs during Coronavirus curfew

Sri Lanka makes ‘helicopter drops’ of new money despite soft-peg

Airport closure extended

Sri Lanka said it has extended a ban on arriving passengers by one week to April 07 from March 31, the island’s Civil Aviation Authority said, but aircraft would still be able fly in with cargo, transit passengers and fly out with outbound passengers.

“… [A]ll international Airports in Sri Lanka will continue to be closed for the operation of inbound international commercial passenger flights (i.e. arrivals) until 2359hrs on 7 April 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka),” the CAA said in a notice to all airlines.

“This closure will be reviewed by the Sri Lanka Authorities.”

During the period aircraft departures with passengers originating from Colombo, stopovers, transit passengers or visiting tourists, Emergency Diversions to BIA, Freighter Operations and humanitarian flights, Technical landings and Inbound ferry flights (without passengers).


Sri Lanka extends partial airport closure till April 07 to fight Coronavirus

SriLankan Airlines fighting Coronavirus battle with 95-pct fleet grounded

SriLankan Airlines, Oman Air and Qatar are flying daily to Sri Lanka as is Aeroflot.

Cathay Pacific is flying cargo to and from the country. SriLankan Airlines is also flying cargo only flights bringing in vital supplies.

Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Ashok Pathirage said 95 percent of the fleet was grounded.

Anti-Covid quarantine

Sri Lanka’s military said 1,488 have been released after ending quarantine. In 46 centres, 2,074 including 22 foreigners are in quarantine, Army Chief Shavendra Silva told reporters in a daily recorded video released Saturday night.

Atalugama remains under lockdown, after a confirmed person was found who is believed to have made contact with 26 peopple.

The military has found 20 persons who were now in a quarantine centre, General Silva said. (Colombo/Mar29/2020)

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UNESCO DG to discuss archaeological endeavours in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s president has said that he will discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city with visiting UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.

Azoulay will visit Sri Lanka from July 16-19 and take part at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s membership of UNESCO at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo.

She will also travel to UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the island, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“I have invited the Director General of UNESCO to visit Sri Lanka and discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city. Several universities overseas have shown interest in supporting us for these activities, and we are moving forward with their collaboration,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“Anuradhapura boasts a rich history spanning over a millennium, once renowned as a hub of trade and economics. Preserving and exploring this ancient city’s archaeological treasures remains a significant endeavour.”

“New archaeological efforts in the Anuradhapura district are now imperative,” Wickremesinghe said during a ceremony to inaugurate a 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13).

Wickremesinghe pointed out that UNESCO has undertaken extensive archaeological projects in Angkor Thom in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos.

“However, we have not taken the necessary steps to implement these activities in Anuradhapura city. Therefore, I have advised both the Department of Archaeology and the Cultural Triangle to undertake these initiatives.”

These efforts are part of a comprehensive program aimed at establishing Anuradhapura as a globally renowned city, Wickremesinghe said.

While Sigiriya has gained international fame, Sri Lanka has not adequately highlighted Anuradhapura’s historical significance as a major trade and economic center in the past, the president pointed out.

“Cities like Tanjore (Thanjavur), Madurai, and Sanchipuram are often discussed, yet Anuradhapura, the fourth city, has been overlooked. Therefore, it is crucial to develop Anuradhapura city.”

As part of these initiatives, preparations are underway to establish new hotels in Anuradhapura, which will contribute significantly to its development, Wickremesinghe said. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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Government committed to improving living conditions in Jaffna: Sri Lanka PM

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prime minister, who is in Jaffna “to monitor the progress” and “get a little feedback” has said the government is committed to improving living conditions of the people in the northern peninsula.

“This government is dedicated to improving the living conditions of the Jaffna Peninsula,” Dinesh Gunawardena told a Jaffna District Coordinating Committee meeting on Friday, according to a statement by his media division.

“In order to increase the living conditions, we have embarked on an increase in most of the expenditure needed by the departments, and also special allocations for rural and urban development in the local government area.”

Nationalist Gunawardena met with Tamil politicians at the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat Office and participated in the distribution of rice and egg incubators for low income families.

“A special privilege to be with you all, in order to monitor the progress made by all of you, as well as to get a little feedback where we stand today in relation to the reports given.”

Gunawardena joins a string of leading political figures who have visited the north ahead of upcoming polls.

The government was, he said, “committed to improve the services and living conditions, therefore, to provide the necessary infrastructure for developments, which means much to your area.”

The prime minister said he appreciated the efforts of farmers because “farmers are all private sector, I would say. Let us not forget, farmers are all in the private sector, either in the ownership or in the tenancy. They are private contributors to the national development of the economy.”

The poverty numbers are “fairly managed” in the country. Gunawardena said, pointing out that poverty was a key problems in any economy. “Any country, you would agree with me, the richest country, in the United States even, food stamps have been given. So all economies the world are going through difficult situations in relation to the poor.

“We have to look after the poor especially in these remote villages of the Northern Province…”

Minister Douglas Devanada, MPs M A Sumanthiran, Angajan Ramanathan, C Vigneshwaran, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, and other officials participated in the meeting. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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Sri Lanka leader’s presidential campaign faces dilemma over coalition: sources

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s presidential election campaign is facing a dilemma over coalition due to rivalry parties with different political ideologies, sources said.

President Wickremesinghe is yet to announce his candidacy for the presidential poll which is expected to be declared by the island nation’s Election Commission after July 17.

However, his close allies and some ministers in the current coalition government have already started a campaign to promote him assuming that President Wickremesinghe will declare his candidacy.

Three sources who spoke to EconomyNext said legislators from the main opposition center-right Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) are ready to join, but they do not want to be in coalition with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujna Peramuna (SLPP).

“SJB members who want to join Wickremesinghe are bit nervous because people wanted to oust SLPP in 2022 for their past sins including corruption and wrong economic policies,” on source who is in a member in the core campaign strategy group told EconomyNext.

Another source said majority of nationalist party SLPP are with the president, but a few key SLPP leaders do not want to back Wickremesinghe because of his market-led economic policies.

“SLPP does not want to be seen as backing Wickremesinghe’s privatization moves. So a few leaders are worried to join the campaign and have different idea of fielding their own campaign,” the second source who is indirectly involved with facilitating meeting between Wickremesinghe and legislators said.

The SJB is leaned towards somewhat liberal economic policies and has ensured to treat all ethnic people equally, while SLPP has backed a state-controlled economy and has given priority for ethnic majority Sinhala Buddhists.


There is no formal and transparent survey to assess the popularity of possible presidential candidates.

However, an informal survey shows Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa is leading followed by Marxists Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka.

The same survey has shown a gradual gain for Wickremesinghe in the last three months.

“He is confident of winning, but he has to win most of the undecided voters for that,” a third source, who is in the campaign planning team, said.

“Still things are very fluid. Majority of the people still don’t understand the benefits of economic recovery and the country getting out of the debt default under the current president. We will have a clear picture by end of next month.”

Wickremesinghe was elected as the president in July 2022 by the parliament after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country in fear of his life amid mass protests and outside the presidential palace.

Wickremesinghe has implemented some tough economic reforms including raising taxes, imposing new taxes, freezing recruitments to state-owned companies, and privatizing loss making government-owned entities in line with commitments agreed with the IMF.


Those reforms have made him unpopulour mainly among government employees and lower income groups.

He has raised the salaries of government employees from April this year while has introduced a new transfer payment called Aswesuma for lower income and vulnerable groups.

Sri Lanka faced an unprecedented economic crisis with a sovereign debt default in 2022. But it has recovered faster than expected under Wickremesinghe administration with difficult and unpopulour reforms.

People protested against the SLPP-led government in 2022 and ousted then leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa and all his relatives from the key ministerial positions for their alleged involvement in corruption and wrong economic policies.

The SLPP which had more than two-third majority in the parliament after 2020 general election, is worried about its perception and electoral performance after the economic crisis.

Analysts say Wickremesinghe has a greater chance to win if he join with SJB than SLPP because of the SLPP’s negative perception.

Sources, however, said they are in discussions with both SLPP and SJB legislators to agree on a common programme for Wickremesinghe’s presidency.

Presidential election is likely to be held either in October first week or second week, Election Commission officials say.

Wickremesinghe lost the parliamentary election in 2020, but entered the parliament in 2021 using the solo seat his party won through the national list.  (Colombo/July 13/2024)

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