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Saturday April 20th, 2024

Sri Lanka to open schools for all grades as doctors warn of increasing screen addiction

ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka will reopen schools for students in all grades starting next week as 70% of pupils grades 11 to 13 have been vaccinated, a minister said, as health officials implored parents to send their increasingly screen-addicted children back to school.

Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told parliament on Monday (15) that 240,000 teachers are also fully vaccinated.

“Next week, we are opening schools for other grades. Irrespective of political priorities, it is our children who need to go to school and go through the education system to climb the ladder of life,” he said.

With health authorities relaxing COVID-19 travel restrictions in October, the education ministry opened government schools for primary graders and students in the GCE Ordinary and Advance level classes., while continuing the vaccination of all students from the age of 16 to 19.

Ministry of Education, Additional Secretary (School Affairs), L M D Dharmasena last week said 73 percent of the total students aged 16 to19 had also been vaccinated.

“Out of 994,515, we have vaccinated 730,810 so far with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Another 263,705 have yet to get it,” Dharmasena told reporters on Friday (12).

“Contrary to what many seem to think, we have taken a decision not to close schools again,” he said.

Meanwhile, health officials showed that the vaccination and opening of schools must be considered as two different operations because education cannot be postponed until the country is fully vaccinated.

“The vaccination of children aged 12 to 19 with medical needs has been completed successfully. We have jabbed more than 22,000 children who have other medical conditions. No major side effects have been observed. We have now started the second jab,” Consultant Paediatrician  Prof Shaman Rajindrajith told reporters last week.

“We can fully vaccinate them in the near future. If someone missed getting the first dose, it is not too late yet to get the second jab. Go to the nearest hospital and take the shot.”

Rajindrajith said the final report on vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 is being put together and for the perusal of the health ministry in order to take further decisions.

“Another question that we get is why we are opening schools for the primary graders when we have vaccinated secondary grade students,” Rajindrajith said.

“We have always said vaccination and opening of schools should be two different things, because the transmissibility of COVID-19 among children is very low. Transmissibility from a child to an adult is also low.”

The official said that if students were trained to follow a hygiene regime under teacher supervision, schools can successfully be kept safe from the virus.

Rajindrajith said though it cannot be determined exactly whether there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases among children, data from some hospitals suggests a high number.

“We need to be cautious. But that does not mean children shouldn’t go to school. We have to teach them how to protect themselves and follow health guidelines,” he said.

Though COVID-19 among children has not reached a critical stage, their education has, the official said.

“Children are addicted to phones and other things. So we need to find a way to open schools while protecting our children.”

Commenting on the increase number of admissions at the Lady Ridgway Children’s Hospital (LRCH), hospital director Dr G Wijesuriya said most children are being admitted due to mental health issues.

“Most children came to hospital with various psychological disorders. Since they have not been going to school, these children have gotten addicted to phones, laptops and other devices which has weakened them mentally,” Wijesuriya told reporters last week.

“We have received reports of children getting into unethical things and some have even tried to commit suicide as well. I ask parents to send their children to school. Teach them the health guidelines to protect them, and get them out of stress they are under,” he said. (Colombo/Nov15/2021)

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Sri Lanka discussing giving extra land, water for Chinese oil refinery

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in discussions with China’s Sinopec to give extra land and assure water supplies after the company decided to expand the capacity of a planned oil refinery in Hambantota, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“There are concerns on how the water supply is going to be provided for the refinery,” Minister Wijesekera told reporters Friday.

The refinery will need more land and also revise conditions in a Board of Investment agreement, he said.

Read more
Sinopec to double capacity of new refinery in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota

Recommendations and decisions from Sri Lanka’s side had already been sent and Sinopec is expected to revert back in May.

“We are hoping to sign the agreement once everyone has agreed,” Wijesekara said.

The principle agreements are expected to be signed by June, he said.

The refinery could sell up to 10 percent of its output in the domestic market.

“There is no commitment by the government to purchase anything,” Minister Wijesekera said. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 302.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 302.00/50 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Friday, down from 301.50/302.00 a day earlier, dealers said.

There was increased demand for dollars after the central bank bought 715 million dollars from forex markets. In the previous two months it was buying on average about 200 million US dollars, leaving market participants and bank in a ‘oversold’ position.

There were some official dollars sales Friday dealers said.

READ Sri Lanka rupee quoted wide to US dollar as peg inconsistencies flare up

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 11.30/40 percent down from 11.35/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.95/12.05 percent up from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed stable at 12.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.30/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed stable at 12.40/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down, banks trade down

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed down 0.38 percent, or 44.80 points, at 11,753; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.53 percent, or 18.46 points, at 3,456.

Turnover was at 1.4 billion. The diversified financials (Rs366mn) and banks (Rs266mn) sectors continued to see selling pressure.

“This was possibly due to uncertainty around the bond discussions,” market participants said.

With the exception of Sampath Bank Plc (up at 77.50) all other banks traded down in the day. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc was down at 104.50, Hatton National Bank Plc was down at 188.50, and DFCC Bank Plc was down at 77.00.

LOLC Finance Plc saw the most trades and closed up at 6.40. Another LOLC company, Browns Investments Plc, also saw high traded volumes and closed up at 5.60.

Softlogic Capital Plc was up at 7.00, and Softlogic Holdings Plc was up at 11.20. A trading suspension imposed on SHL.N0000 was lifted effective today as the company submitted the annual report for the year ended 31st March 2023.

However, shares of the Company will remain in the Watch List “due to Qualified Audit Opinion and Emphasis of matter on going concern in the Independent Auditor’s Report in the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st March 2022.”

Dialog Axiata Plc, which announced its merger with Bharti Airtel Thursday, saw its share price close up at 11.90.

“There was some traction on index heavyweights,” market participants pointed out.

Top contributors to the APSI included Aitken Spence Plc (up at 134.50), Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (up at 1,245.25, and Lion Brewery (Ceylon) Plc (up at 1,048.50).

There was a net foreign inflow of 5 million. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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