Recoveries high despite increase in Covid-19 cases - Minister Udaya Gammanpila | Sunday Observer

Recoveries high despite increase in Covid-19 cases - Minister Udaya Gammanpila

8 November, 2020

Co-cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said our health sector has performed extremely well with the support of the Security Forces and intelligence set up to control the novel Coronavirus outbreak in the country. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said we should note that amid the increasing number of Covid-19 positive cases, every single day we have around 200 to 300 recoveries as well. Our recoveries are high due to the prompt action taken by the health sector. Although there were several Covid-19 reported deaths in the recent past, Sri Lanka’s death rate is also one of the lowest in the world.

Q: The President has said that there is no need for a countrywide lockdown if the public follows the recommended health guidelines. Could you explain?

A: The IDH is exclusively reserved for Covid-19 patients. However, not a single nurse or attendant working at the IDH was infected with the virus. They have taken precautions strictly following the health guidelines. It is a classic example that shows even if you are among Covid-19 positive cases, you can protect yourself if you properly follow the health guidelines.

The simple fact is that there are two rules to follow. Firstly we can’t predict as to how long the Covid-19 outbreak would prevail.

Therefore, we have to live with the Coronavirus. Secondly, if the Coronavirus is going to prevail for a period of two years, can we lockdown the entire country for two years? Assuming that whoever interacts with you is a Covid-19 positive case, if you act in keeping with the health guidelines, you will always be safe.

Q: The Minuwangoda-Peliyagoda Covid-19 cluster has exceeded the 8,000 mark and has become an alarming trend compared to the first wave of Covid-19. Is the situation under control now?

A: On the one hand you may notice that every single day we have around 200 to 300 recoveries from the virus. We concede that the Covid-19 virus is spreading rapidly.

There is no doubt about it, as the figures confirm that. But our recoveries are also very high due to the prompt action by the health sector. Although there were several Covid-19 reported deaths in the recent past, Sri Lanka’s death rate is still one of the lowest in the world. So our health sector has performed extremely well with the support of the Security Forces and the intelligence set up.

Q: In the present situation, will the people have to continue their normal way of life while following health guidelines?

A: Unfortunately, we have no other alternative. We have to get used to the present situation and follow the accepted health guidelines.

Q: The main Opposition SJB says the second wave of Covid-19 would have been prevented if the country was totally locked down after the Minuwangoda Brandix cluster emerged. Your views?

A: This very same Opposition pressurised the Government to reconvene Parliament when it was dissolved. When Parliament sessions were conducted, they asked the Government not to conduct proceedings as Parliament was not safe.

It clearly shows their duplicity; and we have an Opposition Leader who prescribed plaquenil for Covid-19 patients. If we listen to the Opposition Leader, we will also face the same fate as those who used plaquenil among the South American nation.

Q: Will the curfew imposed in the Western Province be lifted on November 9 at 5 am?

A: That is what the Government expects. Frankly, these decisions are not political but medical.

Neither the Cabinet nor the President has decided to impose curfew or other such measures because it is entirely up to the medical sector to decide. Right now Sri Lanka has been gazetted as an infected area by the Director General of Health Services. Therefore, the ultimate authority is the Director General of Health Services.

Q: Is there any shortage of essential food commodities as highlighted by a certain section of the media?

A: Essential food commodities are sufficiently available for the whole nation. I don’t think there is a shortage of essential food commodities as the Government focuses attention on these issues on a round the clock basis.

Q: The inaugural meeting of the Parliamentary Council set up under the 20th Amendment was held on Wednesday. Do you think the Parliamentary Council would augur well and sort out the issues created by the Constitutional Council set up under the 19th Amendment?

A: Let time be the judge of that. Why should we come to the conclusion? Let them commence their duties and time will decide about it.

Q: How do you view the outcome of the ongoing US Presidential Election?

A: To be very frank, in the present context Donald Trump has performed extremely well whether he is going to win or lose.

The Sri Lankan Government is willing to work with the USA, and not with any particular party. So we are not worried about who would win or lose. Whoever is in power, we are ready to work with them safeguarding our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Q:The Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa in Parliament on November 3 said although the Opposition warned about the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 the Government did nothing but mock them. How would you respond to this claim?

A: Nobody takes the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa seriously. So why should we respond to the claims made by him.

Q: JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake proposed that a Committee be set up to discuss steps to be taken to prevent the Covid-19 spread. Is there any such need when the Government has already taken all possible steps to contain the disease?

A: In 2006, when the battle against LTTE terrorism commenced, the JVP wanted to cooperate with the Government because their prediction was that the Government will be able to defeat the LTTE.

Now the very same party has extended their cooperation which echoes the JVP’s confidence in the Government’s capability to defeat Covid-19.

It only indicates the JVP’s confidence in the Government. They want to share the credit being a part of the mechanism launched by the Government to combat the Covid-19 virus.

If we need their support we will take it. This is a national disaster and we are ready to get the support of anybody irrespective of political differences.

Q: Some question as to why the Government was in a hurry to bring in the 20th Amendment when it has secured an overwhelming majority to introduce a new Constitution within a year. What is your comment?

A: How can the President rule without making appointments? Although we have a two-thirds majority in Parliament and a huge mandate for the Executive President, we didn’t have the majority in the Constitutional Council which made the appointments.

Without making those appointments, the President is not in a position to implement his mandate. That is why we had to introduce the 20th Amendment as an interim measure.

Q: Some have raised concern on the recent visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Sri Lanka and say the Government should disclose the ultimate objective of his visit. Your comments?

A: I would say the US Secretary of State visited Sri Lanka at the tail end of his term. So nothing concrete was decided or discussed.

According to several prominent political analysts in the USA, Pompeo’s visit to Asia is merely a political campaign. I am not going to jump to any conclusions about his visit. However, nothing serious happened, I can assure.

Q: It seems there is no vibrant Opposition in Parliament against the overwhelming Government majority. Some say it is not healthy for democracy. What is your view?

A: The SJB has 54 members in Parliament. If you consider the previous Parliament, until we launched the ‘Wind of Mahinda’ (Mahinda Sulanga), the entire Parliament was supporting the Yahapalana Government. In 1977, the Opposition was restricted to only eight members. So, the situation is not a new phenomenon. But we need a strong Opposition to point out to the Government when it moves in the wrong direction.

However, we will ensure that although we protect the Government outwardly, we intend to become the Opposition within Parliament and criticise if the Government resorts to any wrong move.

As long as the Government is delivering the goods why should there be somebody to criticise and oppose the Government? We want to have participatory development. I am confident that the entire nation will join hands with the President to take the country forward.