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Since the provision of essential foods and rice production, storage and distribution is imperative to ensure food security, services of the owners of all rice mills have been declared an essential service under the COVID – 19 quarantine process.

Rice mills owners of the country must produce rice in their respective areas using paddy stocks in their possession.  Under the instructions of the President, the Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundara in a letter had informed the Acting Inspector General of Police, the Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Food and the Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority to take measures enabling small scale rice mill owners to distribute rice stocks within their respective Divisional Secretariat Divisions, medium scale owners to distribute within the district and large scale owners to distribute in the entire country.

A harvest of around 3 million metric tons of paddy has been reaped by now and the quantity of rice that can be produced is equivalent to 2/3 of that amount. Accordingly, all the relevant parties have been told that increasing the rice prices or hampering the supply of rice pose a major impediment to the effective implementation of quarantine activities.

Accordingly, the Secretary instructs relevant parties to pay more attention and give the highest possible priority to maintain food security during this period when the people have been subjected to some form of quarantine and the food and other essential items are being delivered to the door-step of the people.

The Osu Sala, pharmacies and banking services remain in the category of essential services.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a special statement urged the general public to render their utmost support to the government’s efforts to save the country from the COVID-19 outbreak.

In his address to the nation, the Premier outlined the measures taken by the government to mitigate the pandemic outbreak and appreciated the sacrifices made by health workers, security forces and other public servants who are on the COVID-19 frontline.

The full speech of the Prime Minister:

“Around the world over 200 countries are fighting against the Coronavirus and it has been seen how thousands of their citizens are being taken to the cemeteries.

Whether we live or die will be determined on how we handle this virus. It will take a lot of commitment and discipline if we are to triumph over this virus.

From the first moment this virus was detected, the President and government acted with great interest in what happens to our people. That is why we sent an aircraft to bring back
the students who were stranded in Wuhan before any other country, when the Coronavirus erupted. By the time they were brought back to the country the quarantine centres were
ready. We very quickly established over 40 quarantine centres around the country to quarantine people who return to the country from overseas. Now these centres can
accommodate thousands for quarantine at any given point. These are not just facilities with accommodation. These centres offer good food, bedding, sanitary facilities and every
detail is attended to including medical attention, even the cup of Kottamalli is given to all those in quarantine during their entire 14 day period.

Those who go to the quarantine centres with sour faces, leave these quarantine centres smiling and happy. This is because they were looked after well and every possible facility
was given to them. We also constructed a special hospital to care for Coronavirus patients in just six days.

In addition, we identified those who were suspected of having contracted the Coronavirus and took measures to quarantine them at their own homes and those who were evading,
our intelligence services were deployed to track them and get them to quarantine centres to save the larger community.

The moment the Coronavirus hit, we closed all schools and universities to safeguard the children from this virus. We were one of the first countries to set up the presidential task
force to deal with the Coronavirus. We also did everything in our power to control the price of goods. There are 416,000 elderly in our country but we provided the payment of
Rs. 5000 to 442,000 elderly persons. Then we had to see to the disabled. There were only 22,000 of the disabled persons who were eligible to receive this payment, but we paid it
to an additional 38,000. We also had to give this payment to 160,000 farmers and 4,600 fisher folk. There were only 25,000 kidney patients on our payment list, but we paid this
amount to even the 13,850 who were on the waiting list. Triposha has been sent to the homes of all pregnant mothers and malnourished children. Recently, 645,000 pensioners were
paid their pensions.

Now as the state institutions are closed due to the virus 1.5 million state sector employees are at home. However, we have already taken steps to pay them their April salaries. We
had planned to recruit 40,000 unemployed graduates, but now we are going to use them for quarantine duties and help them make a living. There are 1.7 million Samurdhi
beneficiaries in the country and another 600,000 on the waiting list. We are taking measures to pay them all the allowance of Rs. 5000.

We also had to think of the around 1.5 million others such as trishaw drivers, school van operators, bur operators etc who are out of work due to the curfew. We have taken steps
to grant them concessions in payment of their leasing etc. We have not passed funds by parliament to do all this. When parliament was convened and we asked for funds the
opposition did not support us. Now what is the point in reconvening parliament?

The whole world knows that the head of the WHO commended our President for the steps taken to control the spread of the Coronavirus. We have already paid over 5 million of
our citizens to help them weather this period. At this point we are focussed on dealing with the crisis at hand and don’t need to be engaging in debates. Despite all the government
income sources being dysfunctional, we are still looking into the best interest of the people.

Our garment trade was hampered as Europe has stopped importing our goods over the pandemic and we used to receive a considerable income from migrant workers in Italy and
the Middle East. But, that too is hampered due to the Coronavirus.

The tourism trade world-wide has taken a hit due to the Coronavirus. Yet, with all the difficulties, we have not refused the people and we have looked after them despite our own
difficulties. We will not give up this fight.

We have taken all decisions without considering politics, religion or race. This is a unique moment when all political parties are committed to working together to defeat the
common enemy, the Coronavirus.

At a time when medical staff of other countries are refusing to attend to the sick due to not having been provided proper personal protection gear. But we are blessed to have
committed medical staff who sew their own masks and come to work to attend to the sick. Out doctors and tri forces personnel are dedicated to attending to the sick and serving
their country leaving their spouses and children at home. We are proud of our people and even the Public Health Inspectors are going house to house identifying and attending to
those infected even risking their own lives. We are all fortunate to live in such a country. Even the efforts of the local government establishments and their staff should be
commended.

The soldiers who sacrificed everything during the war are now giving up their barracks for the quarantine centres to be established and they are sleeping on the cement floors. There
are thousands of young people waiting for an opportunity to serve their country. We are blessed to be born in such a country and as long as we have this compassion among us
we will never be alone.

Hence, we need to triumph over this adversity very soon. Now there is much enthusiasm about growing our own food in our back yards. Our youth are manufacturing the beds
needed for our hospitals. Some are even inventing robots to be deployed in the ICUs. When I see all this I am proud of my country. When all this is over, we will develop our own
industries, grow our own food and develop as a united nation.

We have faced much bigger challenges in the past as a nation and staying indoors for a short period is not something we can’t do. Hence, I appeal to my loving people to please
bear this us and stay indoors for the sake of the country. I am confident that we can overcome this crisis without facing the fate suffered by other countries. We will rise together
not as a developed nation but as a healthy nation.

I wish you all a prosperous future!”

Mr. Sarath Kumara Gurusinghe, a retired teacher residing in Nugegoda donated his pension for the month April to the COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund. Furthermore, Mr. Uyanahewage Ashoka , who has lost his visions also donated Rs. 0.5 million to the Fund. Expressing their views they said that in this context, the contribution made by them to this Fund could be considered as a humanitarian duty performed by them as citizens of the country.

Minister Chamal Rajapaksa handed over a donation of Rs.25 million collected by the Essential Food Commodities Importers & Traders Association to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa while Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, the President of the Sri Lanka Cricket, Shammi Silva, Sri Lanka cricket captain Dimuth Karunaratne and cricketer Lasith Malinga handed over a donation of Rs.25 million collected by the Sri Lanka Cricket to the President.

Minister Ramesh Pathirana handed over a donation of Rs. 7 million collected by the staffs of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture and affiliated institutions to the Ministry,  to the President.

Donations of Rs. 10 million by the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd., Rs. one million each by the Public Officers’ Welfare Association and Irrigation Engineering Diplomate Association,Rs. 10 million by Kalutara Bodhi Trust Fund, Rs. 5 million by Mr. Mano Sekaram, Rs. 2.5 million by Association of University Administrators, Rs. five hundred and fifty thousand by the Immigration and Emigration Officers Association , Rs. 125,000 by the Public Finance Department and Rs.1.5 million by the National Youth Services Council were handed over to Mr. K.B. Egodawele, Director General (Administration) of the Presidential Secretariat.

The balance of the Fund has surpassed Rs. 585 million as of today’s evening.

All the donations will be credited to the special account opened under the number   85737373 at the Corporate Branch of the Bank of Ceylon. Local as well as foreign donors have made their contributions to the Fund. Donations to COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund have been exempted from taxes and foreign exchange regulations. Deposits can be made through cheques or telegraphic transfers.

Further details can be obtained from Mr. K.B. Egodawele, Director General (Administration) of the Presidential Secretariat through the telephone number 011 2 35 44 79.

A meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and medical experts representing various fields was held at the Presidential Secretariat, today (09) with the aim of obtaining much needed expert medical opinion on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country promptly.

During this meeting the steps that have been taken by the government, security forces and the health sector officials to prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as the steps that should be taken in the future, were discussed at length.

The specialists pointed out the importance of conducting investigations on groups that were in close contact with infected persons and who have had contacts in two stages further.

Even though there are sufficient coronavirus test kits available at present, President Rajapaksa instructed the health authorities to take necessary steps to acquire more test kits in order to face any situation.

The group of specialist doctors commended the President’s quarantine programme launched with the aim of preventing the spread of the virus.

Doctors said that further strengthening of the existing quarantine process is the most effective approach to prevent the spread of the virus.

The experts stressed the importance of protecting areas where the virus has not spread into. They were of the view that spread of the virus to those areas as a result of travelling by the people from the affected areas should be stopped.

The Doctors said that the first step is to ensure that everyone stays at home to the extent possible following the ‘’Panchayuda” system. The “Panchayuda” approach includes the use of face masks when leaving the house, avoid touching the face, maintaining a distance of one meter at all times, and hand washing.

Experts, Universities, Technology Institutions, Individual Groups have made a number of discoveries regarding COVID-19. It was also discussed to promptly conduct researches into those findings at professional level.

The President inquired about persons who run the risk of being infected with coronavirus speedily and what measures should be taken to protect these vulnerable groups.

Doctors stated that people with diabetes, asthma and heart diseases need to be vigilant and they should take the medication as prescribed by the physicians. They also emphasized the importance of abstaining from smoking. The expert team also pointed out the importance of drinking liquids to maintain throat’s moisture.

Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Chief Adviser of the President, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary Defence Major Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Chief of Defense staff and Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Acting Inspector General of Police , C.D. Wickramaratne, Former Governor, Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Specialist doctors Vajira Senaratne, Ananda Wijewickrama , Prof. Sarath Jayasinghe,Prof. Arjuna de Silva, Dr. M.C. Weerasinghe, Prof. Neelika Malavige, Prasad Katulanda, Prof. Vajira Dissanayake, Prof. Ranjani Gamage, Kumuduni Ranathunga, Amitha Fernando, Indika Lanerolle and Jude Samantha participated at the meeting.

Sri Lankan Navy, under the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has helps the only Sri Lankan employed at MSC Magnifica luxury cruise ship to return to his Motherland.

There are 2,700 passengers and crew members on board of the cruise, which commenced the voyage on January 5th . However, the cruise was halted in Australia in the wake of COVID – 19 outbreak. As all the ports rejected the request by the ship it was anchored at the Colombo Port on its way back to Italy for refueling and other needs. The only Sri Lankan crew member of the ship, Anura Bandara Herath appealed to the President via Facebook to intervene to enabling him to enter the country during the ship’s short stay at the port of Colombo. Upon seeing the Facebook video President instructed the Commander of Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva to look into the matter.

The Rapid Response Team of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Unit of Sri Lanka Navy received Mr. Herath today (06). The team also assisted to bring a 75-year old German lady, who was ailing, for treatments.

The Sri Lankan crew member was sent to the quarantine center in Boossa while the German lady was transferred to the National Hospital in Colombo, Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva said.

 
 

A contribution of Rs. 66 million was made to the COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund within two days.

The latest donations had increased the balance of the Fund to Rs. 380 million.

Minister Dullas Alahapperuma donated his Cabinet Minister’s salary for the month of April and Minister Gamini Lokuge donated Rs. 10 million. These donations were received by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today (6).

The balance of the Fund had gone up with the contributions of Rs. 25 million by the National Lotteries Board, Rs. 2.5 million each by National Savings Bank and the Engineers’ Association of Ceylon Electricity Board, Rs. 2 million by Land Reforms Commission, Rs. 10 million by Maliban Biscuit Manufactories Ltd., Rs. 1 million by Matara Bodhi Arakshaka Sabhawa and Rs. 5 million by Nature’s Beauty Creations.

All the donations will be credited to the special account opened under the number   85737373 at the Corporate Branch of the Bank of Ceylon. Local as well as foreign donors have made their contributions to the Fund. Donations to COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund have been exempted from taxes and foreign exchange regulations. Deposits can be made through cheques or telegraphic transfers.

Further details can be obtained from Mr. K.B. Egodawele, Director General (Administration) of the Presidential Secretariat through the telephone number 0112354354.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa discussed matters relating to the prevailing situation in the wake of COVID – 19 spread  with the representatives of Samagi Jana Balawegaya at the Presidential Secretariat today (06).

President Rajapaksa elaborated on the measures already taken by the Government to prevent the spread of the lethal virus and the future actions in this regard.

The responsible manner which the Government acted following the declaration by the World Health Organization about the pandemic was explained by the President. The Government was able to take several swift actions to safeguard the citizens of this country, President said.

Every step to ensure uninterrupted day –to-day civilian life was taken. These timely measures were instrumental in controlling the spread. Actions were taken under the guidance of experts in collaboration with the health sector and security forces. Pre-testing with the assistance of medical consultants to identify the infected and those associated with them will continue. This will be helpful for the early detection of the affected, President added.

The quarantine process continues at 40 centers. Programmes have been initiated with the assistance of Public Health Officers (PHIs) to mitigate the spread of COVID- 19 in areas where the infected have been identified. President lauded the service of the PHIs in detection and observations processes.

The representatives of Samagi Jana Balawegaya expressed their satisfaction over the measures taken by the Government so far. Both parties agreed that this should continue without political or any other differences.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that if there are any shortcomings in the government programs, immediate action will be taken to rectify them.

President Rajapaksa and the leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, Sajith Premadasa requested the employers to attend to the needs of their employees who are engaged in various daily wage based industries including construction sector as they can get stranded and have not been able to return to their homes.

A stock of essential medicine required for daily healthcare services including medicine for non-communicable diseases is to arrive in the island from India tomorrow (07) upon the request by the government.

The President explained that after taking the current global economic and social crisis into account, plans are already underway to implement an appropriate economic model suitable to Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa highlighted that the experts have been consulted to uplift the apparel and tourism industries which have suffered a setback and the government will take action under their instructions when the opportunity permits.

In addition to Samurdhi beneficiaries, 700,000 senior citizens, disabled persons and Kidney patients have been granted an allowance of Rs. 5,000 without any discrimination. Chief of the Presidential Task Force, Basil Rajapaksa stated that if any individual had not received their allowance yet, he/she is entitled to make an appeal with their respective Grama Niladhari Officer.

Government and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya paid their attention to future plans in number fields including healthcare.

Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Wimal Weerawansa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Bandula Gunawardana and Johnston Fernando represented the government while Samagi Jana Balawegaya was represented by its leader Sajith Premadasa and General Secretary, Ranjith Maddumabandara. Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and several others were present as well.

A group of consultant doctors met with Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi yesterday (01) and presented several suggestions and mechanisms for the control of the spread of COVID-19.

During this meeting, they had presented seven proposals to the Health Minister. They are as follows.

01. All those with cough or cold should follow proper safety measures in providing service until it is confirmed they are COVID-19 positive.

02. Expand all research and criteria on Coronavirus.

04. Patients arriving at hospitals for cough or cold to be treated at special wards.

05. Provide all safety gear to medical staff treating COVID -19 patients according to proper procedure.

06. Provide life insurance facilities for the health workers treating Coronavirus patients.

07. Obtain specialist advice during clinical treatment.

The Health Minister praised the medical specialists for the proposal for an insurance scheme for the health staff, adding that it was most timely and appropriate. She also noted that all the other proposals too were timely and assured the Speclaists that proper attention would be given to their proposals. The Health Minister also said that hospitals would be set up in Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha to treat COVID-19 patients.  

The Specialist medical professionals thanked the Health Minister for her proper management of this situation and for taking farsighted timely decisions.  

The Health Ministry Secretary Badrani Jayawardena, Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe, President of the Association of Medical Specialists Dr. Lalantha Ranasinghe, Secretary Dr. Ashoka Gunaratne and several others were also present at this meeting. 

The Cabinet of Ministers has requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to convince global leaders to convene a conference similar to Bretton Woods Conference to overcome post COVID-19 global economic crisis.

Briefing on this week’s cabinet decisions, Co-cabinet Spokesman Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardene said Sri Lanka had been able to take preventive measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic even before most of the countries in the world with the assistance of health sector workers, Tri Forces, police and other relevant authorities, under the far-sighted leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“As informed by the health sector authorities, the period of next two weeks has been identified as a high risk period. COVID-19 is the biggest menace that the whole world had to undergo since World War II. So none of the countries in the world can face the post COVID-19 crisis alone,” he added.

Considering this the Cabinet of Ministers proposed the President to urge global leaders to convene a conference similar to the Bretton Woods,” Dr. Gunawardene noted.

 
 

The Bretton Woods Conference was a gathering of leaders and financial experts from all nations to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II.

All irrespective of party, religion, creed or race differences should abide by the health sector instructions to combat the COVID 19 epidemic, said Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa this morning.
 
He made this observation at the Party Leaders' and party representatives' meeting held at Temple Trees to discuss the current COVID 19 combat programme of the Government.
 
He pointed out that so far the Government has taken all measures in this connection with the consultation of the health sector. He added the curfew has been imposed with the consultation and advice of health sector authorities and Security Forces.
 
He said further that when such measures were implemented, people would have to face inconvenience in their social and religious engagements. He added that they would have to tolerate them for the time being for the well-being of all.
 
Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Presidential Task Force Chairman former Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Supplying Essential Goods also explained the measures taken so far.
 
The party leaders expressed their appreciation of the work done by the Government, health sector and the Security Forces and assured their fullest cooperation. They made several valuable suggestions which the Prime Minister acknowledged.  
 
The meeting was attended by former President Maithripala Sirisena, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and many others.
 

The GCE O/L examination results will be released before the 31st of April and the Education Ministry and the Examinations Department has no plans of postponing the GCE A/L examination, said Education Minister Dallas Alahapperuma addressing a media briefing held at the Government Information Department yesterady (01).

He noted that in the face of the prevailing situation in the country and the Coronavirus epidemic, no one can predict if schools could reopen by April 20th. Therefore, he said that self-learning and E-Learning modern learning methodologies would be introduced.

Currently, it’s been 19 days since school holidays were given and there are around 5.5 million students from pre-school to A/L idling at home. Therefore, he said that from April 20th the government intends to telecast educational programmes in Sinhala and Tamil on the Rupavahini Corporation Eye Channel and Nethra Channel. Cabinet approval had been granted for the President’s proposal.

 

A meeting was held yesterday afternoon (01) between the government and the UNP at the Presidential Secretariat regarding the country’s situation due to the Coronavirus threat, under the patronage of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The president explained at length to the UNP the measures taken by his government to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading in the country. He said that many of those infected with the Covid-19 virus are those found from quarantine centers or those who had closely associated with infected persons and by identifying them early it had helped in controlling the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the head of the Presidential Task Force to Coordinate and Monitor the Delivery of Continuous Services for the Sustenance of Overall Community Life Basil Rajapaksa explained the programme launched by them. From the identified 6.5 million families island-wide, 5.3 million families are in the process of receiving Rs. 5000 each prior to April 09th, Basil Rajapaksa explained.

Both parties were of the view that all measures taken to control the spread of the Coronavirus should be done with the least inconvenience to the public. Both parties also agreed that all relief measures should not be political. Both parties also discussed the impact of this Coronavirus epidemic on the economy, state employees, businesses, plantation sector and those engaged in daily wage employment and the best way to resolve these issues.

Both the government and the UNP applauded and appreciated the commitment and dedication of the doctors, nurses and the entire health service, the tri-forces and police. Those who participated in the discussion agreed to inform their party representatives regarding the matters discussed at the meeting. The meeting lasted over two hours and was held in a cordial manner. Overall both parties agreed that it was a successful meeting.

Representing the government, Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Wimal Weerawansa, Bandula Gunawardena, Johnston Fernando, Dallas Alahapperuma participated, while Deputy UNP Leader Ravi Karunanayake, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ruwan Wijewardena, Daya Gamage, Palitha Range Bandara, Navin Dissanayake, Lakshman Wijayamanne participated representing the UNP. President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Finance Ministry Secretary S. Artigalle and Central Bank Governor Professor W.D. Lakshman also participated.

 

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