SRI LANKA NEWS
Compiled by Victor Melder
United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was named as the Party’s National List Parliamentarian in the ninth Parliament. UNP Assistant Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stated the decision was arrived at unanimously at the UNP Working Committee meeting held yesterday (31). While UNP secured one Parliamentary National List seat during the General Election 2020, the seat remained vacant until a decision was taken. However, UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywadena on 14 April stated that Wickremesinghe will enter Parliament through the National List within a month. He added even representatives of other parties are of the opinion that Wickremesinghe should occupy the National List parliamentary seat won by UNP. (Ceylon Today, 1.6.2021)
Sri Lanka yesterday welcomed 19 tourists from eight passenger flights, after a 10-day restriction on inbound travelers. These travelers were disembarked at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) from flights operated by Qatar Airways, Emirates and six SriLankan Airlines. There are close to 2,000 tourists in the country at present. With the lifting on the temporary ban on inbound passengers to the country, a total of 567 people arrived yesterday, in addition to 52 crew members and 120 transit passengers. However, all tourists must engage in a 14-day mandatory quarantine, while restrictions are still maintained on passengers who have a travel history to Vietnam and India in the recent past. Previously, passenger flights were banned from 21-31 May as part of overall measures to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 via its third wave. With domestic travel restrictions continuing till 7 June, there were concerns whether the ban on incoming passenger flights will continue as well. After a near 10-month closure, Sri Lanka on 21 January re-opened borders to resume inbound international travel to the country. Since then, over 13,000 tourists have arrived while complying with health and safety guidelines. (Daily Financial Times, 2.6.2021)
The restrictions were to be lifted on 7 June, with an easing of restrictions on 31 May and 4 June. However, the Government announced on 28 May that restrictions will not be relaxed on 31 May and 4 June, and that a mobile truck service would be established to distribute essential items to the public. (Daily Financial Times, 3.6.2021)
The Government yesterday kicked off the provision of Rs. 5,000 allowance for the fourth time to people affected by COVID-19 pandemic. The allowance is given to low income families who receive various Government allowances as well as families who are unable to sustain their livelihood due to the existing travel restrictions. The Government expects to spend nearly Rs. 30 billion on this relief effort. For a family receiving benefits under any Government subsidy scheme, if the benefit currently received is less than Rs. 5,000, the relevant shortfall will be paid under this round.
Only one allowance will be given for a family and the Samurdhi allowance, which is paid on the 7th of every month. (Daily Financial Times, 3.6.2021)
As per the statistics of the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, 100,000 COVID positive cases have been reported so far during the third wave of the pandemic. A total of 195,844 COVID-positive cases have been reported so far and 3,297 cases have been reported yesterday alone. Accordingly, 630 cases were reported from the Colombo District, 648 from the Gampaha District, 409 from the Kalutara District, 111 from the Kurunegala District, 94 from the Kandy District and 185 from the Galle District. Overall, 51,514 cases have been reported from the Colombo District, 35,988 from the Gampaha District, 18,294 from the Kalutara District, 9,824 from the Kandy District and 9,135 from the Kurunegala District. Out of a total of 186,868 infected, 162,397 have completely recovered and discharged from hospitals and Intermediate Care Centres (ICCs).Only 3,396 infections and 13 deaths were reported during the first wave of the pandemic, while the second wave recorded 92,341 infections and 591 deaths.At present, 31,839 infected people are being treated in hospitals and ICCs and 1,608 fatalities have been recorded so far. The first dose of anti-COVID vaccines has been given to 1,881,858 individuals and the second dose has been given to 353,393 individuals.(Daily News, 5.6.2021)
Ten individuals have died while 219,027 people from 54,126 families in eight districts had been affected due to the prevailing adverse weather conditions, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said today. The affected people are from Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Puttalam, Colombo, Gampaha, Kegalle, Kandy and Kalutara. Moreover, one person has gone missing while two persons have been injured. Also, 11 houses have been completely damaged while 724 houses have been partially damaged due to inclement weather. The DMC warned of further floods with the water levels in several reservoirs and rivers were increasing rapidly while some were overflowing because of incessant rains. (Daily Mirror Online, 6.6.2021)
Tea Brokers weekly Tea Market Reports, particularly, John Keels Holdings, (JKH,) market Review, Forbes and Walker ( F & W) Tea market report, and Asia Siyaka(AS) Brokers weekly tea update, reported tea exports from January to May 2021 exceeded Rs. 103. 07 billion. This exports result exceeded 2020 performance by Rs. 18. 36 Billion. From January to May 2020 exports were Rs 84.7 Billion. It is a clear indication that Ceylon Tea registered increased demand over the same period comparing both seasons. One of the reasons attributed for the increase in Ceylon Tea exports was the lower production to some extent in the Indian Tea industry because of bad weather as well as the coronavirus pandemic that swept through India disrupting many commercial activities. The factual position was that the pandemic situation exacerbated dearth in production pushing supply and demand position to critical levels, Thus results of the pandemic in India generated increased demand for Ceylon Tea. Cumulative exports recorded production levels at 134.72 million kilos to date, as reported by AS Brokers; comparatively 2020 the quantity recorded was 109. 5 million kilos. It should also be of interest that 75 percent of the production was output by the tea smallholders. Sources from this sector said such results were also of importance as uncertainty in the fertiliser supply chain served as an impediment to production. Regional Plantation Companies were not exempt from the catastrophe facing the industry, as confirmed by sources who declined to be quoted. Low growns production during the week was recorded at 3.1 million kilos. Flowery grades were sold at prices ranging from Rs. 2,200 to Rs, 2,400 per kilo. Prices from the western hills, particularly BOPF grade, appreciated as the sale progressed. High and mid grown CTCs were Rs. 20 to 30 per kilo – less than expected. According to the Tea Report, production in 2017 was 307.71 million kilos. In 2020, the production was 278.4 million kilos. Reports at hand did not indicate reasons for drop since that year.(Daily Island, 21.6.2021)
Former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva who was convicted and sentenced to death over murder charges has been granted special presidential pardon today (24 June). Silva was convicted in the murder case of former MP and SLFP trade union wing leader Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. Premachandra and his bodyguards were killed on 8 October 2011, while Silva sustained serious head injuries in the incident. On 8 September 2016, the Colombo High Court found Silva and four of his associates guilty and imposed the death sentence. He later appealed the decision at the Supreme Court, which was subsequently rejected. The Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the murder conviction by the Colombo High Court. The Presidential Commission appointed to investigate incidents of political victimization had reportedly, recommended the release of Duminda Silva. (Ceylon Today, 24.6.2021)
A fire reported in the engine room of MSC MESSINA, a Liberian flagged container ship, located 480 nautical miles off Sri Lanka’s Great Basses Reef Lighthouse. Sri Lanka Navy Spokesman Captain Indika De Silva when contacted by Ceylon Today said that a ship responding to the distress call, the MSC DEILA sailing under the flag of Panama, had reported that the fire aboard the MSC MESSINA appeared to be under control. The MSC MESSINA was halfway between Sri Lanka and Malacca Strait, en route to Singapore from Sri Lanka, when the fire was reported. (Ceylon Today, 24.6.2021)
A total of 1,876 COVID-19 positive cases were reported in Sri Lanka today, stated the Epidemiology Unit. The total count of positive coronavirus cases found in Sri Lanka currently sits at 249,926 and 214,668 of them have made complete recoveries. There are only 32,444 active cases being treated in various hospitals across the country. (Daily News, 25.6.2021)
Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 2,862 with health authorities on Thursday confirming 48 more COVID-19 deaths. According to the Department of Government Information, 37 persons were over the age of 60 and the remaining 11 persons were between ages 30 and 59.
Of the persons who died of COVID-19, 26 were male and 22 were female. (Daily Financial Times, 25.6).2021)
Damage to Sri Lanka’s marine environment from a sinking chemical ship is worse than feared, officials said, as more dead turtles, dolphins and whales washed up on the island’s beaches.
As of Thursday, 130 marine animals have been found dead on the Indian Ocean’s beaches since the MV X-Press caught fire last month before partially sinking off the coast after two weeks ablaze. Sri Lanka’s Government believes they were killed by the hundreds of tons of chemicals and plastics leaking from the ship. “At least six turtle carcasses washed up along the western coast on Thursday alone,” a wildlife official told AFP. He said they had also received the first report of a shoal of reef fish dying at Hikkaduwa, a southern tourist resort area known for its rich coral reef, “So far, we have collected the carcasses of 115 turtles, 15 dolphins and five whales,” the official said., asking not to be named. The Singapore-registered ship was known to be carrying 81 containers of hazardous chemicals, including 25 tons of nitric acid, when it caught fire. Around 200 container ships and oil tankers sail past Sri Lanka every day on the busy routes between Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Many dock in Colombo, the biggest transshipment hub in South Asia.(Daily Financial Times, 26.6.2021)
The Central Bank injected Rs.23 billion worth liquidity last Friday, taking the printed money stock in excess of Rs.900 billion as the monetary authority is now forced to provide liquidity to the cash-strapped government after the latter closed down the economy for a month. Mirror Business last week showed that Central Bank’s holdings of government securities or the printed money stock had risen by Rs.34.51 billion since the country went into a near total lockdown on May 21 through June 18, 2021, bringing the total outstanding printed money stock to Rs.896.24 billion. However, on June 25 alone, the Central Bank provided fresh liquidity worth Rs.23 billion to the government bringing the total holdings to Rs.919.22 billion. The Central Bank was scaling back its holdings from Rs.904.02 billion in early April to Rs.856.65 billion by early June but it soon had to reverse course as the government was losing money from tax income while bills are adding up for payment including the State sector salaries and for virus containing efforts. Meanwhile, the government last week sought parliamentary approval for an additional Rs.200 billion spending to assist the economy gutted by the restrictions, which accounts for an additional 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The new spending will expand the budget deficit from the projected 9.5 percent to 10.7 percent in 2021. Unlike in the developed markets, Sri Lanka cannot print money excessively, while keeping its economy shuttered, which could result in inflation and Balance of Payment deficits. Even the United States ran 13-year high inflation in May when it registered 5.0 percent increase in consumer prices as a result of excessive monetary and fiscal stimulus continuing for over a year. Sri Lanka also saw inflation spiking to 6.1 percent in May with the food inflation running at over 10.0 percent. (Daily Mirror, 29.6.2021)
The Government has decided to obtain a $ 150 million loan from the Asian Development Bank to help finance its fight against the spread of and better management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding for the initiative titled, ‘Responsive COVID-19 Vaccines for Recovery Project,’ will be via several COVID-specific support schemes of the ADB. The Government said $ 84 million will be from the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility and the remaining $ 66 million from the Standard Local Allocation of the Ordinary Capital Resources Fund of the ADB. The total cost of the project is $ 161.85 million with the Government of Sri Lanka bearing $ 11.85 million thereof. The loan is planned to be used for a number of related activities, including cost of vaccination, installation of vaccine-related monitoring systems, providing of refrigerated transport facilities, and strengthening clinical waste management. The Cabinet of Ministers at their meeting on Monday approved the proposal tabled by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Daily Financial Times, 30.6.2021)
With a total of 45 deaths being confirmed on Wednesday (28), Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 death toll has crossed the 3,000 mark. Accordingly, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 death toll currently stands at a total of 3,030. Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena confirmed today (29) that one amongst the deceased has been identified as a person below the age of 30, whilst 12 persons were aged between 30 – 59, and the rest were aged above 60 years. (Ceylon Today, 30.6./2021)
The Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval to further extend the order issued imposing certain restrictions on foreign exchange remittances. Accordingly, restrictions on foreign exchange remittances will remain in place for another six months from 02 July. The Government issued orders under Section 22 of the Foreign Exchange Act of 2017 to suspend external remittances related to certain transactions, taking into account the negative impact on the country’s foreign reserves and foreign exchange market due to the COVID-19 epidemic. According to the proposal tabled by the Prime Minister in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has recommended the extension to minimize potential risk in the foreign exchange market and maintain the stability of the financial system. (Ceylon Today, 30.6.2021)
A total of 1,890 COVID-19 patients were yesterday detected in the country, as concerns about the spread of the Delta variant were raised after the Kahathuduwa Medical Officer of Health (MOH) said a patient with the Delta variant had been detected from the area. According to the Kahathuduwa MOH Dhanuka Pathmaraja, the patient with the Delta variant was employed at a leading construction company in Colombo. “We suspect he contracted the variant at the construction company. The Epidemiology Unit instructed us to carry out 100 PCR tests at random immediately,” he said, adding that steps will be taken to restrict movement so there is no further spread of the variant. However, the Epidemiology Unit said three COVID-19 cases have been flagged as possibly being the Delta variant and that tests are currently being carried out.
A total of 255,508 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 in Sri Lanka to date.
In terms of imported COVID-19 cases, 5,117 Sri Lankan returnees from abroad and 328 foreigners have tested positive for the virus to date. This includes the 1,867 COVID-19 patients detected on Sunday, which includes 1,754 persons from the New Year cluster, 100 Sri Lankan overseas returnees and 13 persons from the Prisons cluster. In terms of district distribution, 378 patients were from Kalutara, 344 patients were from Gampaha, 271 patients were from Colombo, 84 patients were from Matara, and 71 patients from Galle. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, 60,942 persons from Colombo, 44,438 persons from Gampaha, 28,100 persons from Kalutara, 13,658 persons from Kurunegala, and 13,194 persons from Kandy have tested positive for the virus. In the Western Province, 28,645 patients from Colombo, 25,904 patients from Gampaha and 21,042 patients from Kalutara have been detected during the third wave of the pandemic. At present, 31,315 persons are undergoing medical treatment and hospitals have under observation 1,094 persons suspected of having COVID-19. The Epidemiology Unit states that 2,251 persons were discharged from hospitals yesterday, bringing the country’s COVID-19 recoveries to 221,249. The Health Promotion Bureau states that 18,008 PCR tests were carried out yesterday. (Daily Financial Times, 30.6.2021)