Following decisions were taken at the online meeting of the Special Committee on COVID-19 Control chaired by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa this morning (24).
- The Special Committee on COVID-19 Control decided to devise a comprehensive plan on the health recommendations and restrictions that need to be imposed on reopening the country with the lifting of the curfew.
- The plan will be prepared by 3 relevant authorities covering three areas. Under the guidance of the Health Ministry and the health specialists committees, the Ministry of Public Administration will issue recommendations on how to maintain services in the public sector, the Ministry of Transport will issue recommendations with regard to public transport and the Ministry of Labor will issue recommendations on how to maintain services in the private sector.
- Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that the economic growth rate which was maintained at 12.3% during the second quarter of 2021 fell down to 1% during the third quarter due to the lockdown imposed in the country and therefore, he explained the need to work towards the target of maintaining the country’s economic growth rate at 3% in the 4th quarter. He expressed optimism that this would help maintain the country’s overall annual economic growth rate at 5% this year.
- The opening of schools was also discussed at length and the relevant recommendations of the health specialists committee have been forwarded to the Ministry of Education. Minister Rajapaksa also instructed the relevant officials to refer the recommendations directly to the Governors and the Provincial Directors of Health.
- International organizations on children, including UNICEF, as well as pediatricians in the country have pointed out that it is not necessary to wait until the vaccination programme ends to open schools. The specialists pointed out that schools and pre-schools should be reopened as soon as possible to ensure the uninterrupted education of the children and that proper health recommendations should be followed in this regard. The specialists also said the commitment and care of the parents is also vital in this.
- It was also decided to get the direct assistance of the local government bodies and Regional Development Committees in cleaning and disinfection of schools. The importance of the Ayurvedic post-COVID-19 treatment centres was also emphasized and the establishment of new Ayurvedic post-COVID-19 treatment centres in the tourist zones aimed at promoting the tourism industry was also discussed.
- There is a huge international demand for local medicines in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The attention was drawn to formulate a direct plan to remove existing barriers in exporting medicinal products. State Minister Sisira Jayakody stated that the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine has made all arrangements to provide indigenous immune strengthening medicines to all families in the country free of charge and further said that Rs. 6,000 million has been allocated for this purpose.
- Minister Prasanna Ranatunga pointed out that there was no truth in the rumors that there was a delay in the PCR tests of the locals and foreign tourists entering the country from the airport, adding that with the commencement of the operations of the newly established test center from tomorrow, processes in this regard would be more efficient. Foreign tourists will be directed to the hotels of their choice without any detention after being subjected to the PCR test. Sri Lankans will be sent to their homes and the PCR test results will be issued in approximately 02-03 hours and if the results confirm that a person is infected with COVID, the relevant Public Health Inspector will issue guidelines and will explain the quarantine process.
- The success of the present vaccination drive was also reviewed at length during the meeting and the vaccination of the children with congenital diseases, who are between the ages of 12 and 19 commenced today at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo and Anuradhapura and Kurunegala General Hospitals, said Specialist Dr. Prasanna Gunasena. He pointed out that there is a renewed interest in vaccination among the public and that it is a positive development that young people in the age group of 20-29 years have also volunteered to get the vaccine.