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WHO Chief hopes COVID will no longer be emergency

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World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday he is “hopeful” that the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be considered a global emergency some time next year, Reuters reported.

His comments at a briefing with media come as China dismantles its rigid “zero-COVID” policy and allows people to live with the virus, stirring concerns that the world’s No.2 economy faces a surge in infections.

A WHO body meets every few months to decide whether the new coronavirus, which emerged three years ago in China’s Wuhan and has killed more than 6.6 million people, still represents a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).

The designation is intended to trigger a coordinated international response and could unlock funding to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

Asked about the conditions needed for the end of the PHEIC, WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said: “There’s more work to be done.”

“If there are huge chunks of the population that have not had vaccinations, the world still has a lot of work to do,” said WHO’s emergencies director Mike Ryan.

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Vehicle import ban extended until next year

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The government has postponed the lifting of the ban on private vehicle imports until the beginning of next year.

A decision has been made to put off lifting the ban because the country’s economy has not stabilised enough and foreign reserves are not at a sufficient level to facilitate such imports, a senior Treasury official told the Sunday Times. He said the import of private vehicles will result in an annual foreign exchange outflow of about USD 1 billion.

However, the import of commercial vehicles such as lorries, buses and trucks, as well as vans used in the tourism sector, can start next month, the official added. Vehicles used for government ministries and other agencies too will only be imported from the beginning of next year when the ban is lifted on private vehicle imports.

The government had earlier planned to allow the import of electric vehicles and private cars by the end of this year. This has also now been postponed until next year.

Motorbikes and three-wheelers make up the largest number of private vehicle imports. The import of these vehicles will have to be postponed until at least May or June next year due to the economy still not having recovered enough, the official revealed.

Small cars with engine capacities ranging from 600 cc to 800 cc are usually imported in bulk. Therefore, the government will allow only a certain quota of such vehicles to be imported. Only authorised local agents of the parent companies will be allowed to import such vehicles initially.

When allowing the import of vehicles from the start of next year, the government will also give priority to companies that locally assemble the vehicles from imported parts, the Treasury source said.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 vehicle permits issued to doctors and senior government officers are still pending. The official said they would only be able to consider allowing these vehicle imports next year, but that their vehicles too would not be allowed to be imported in bulk. The decision on these imports will depend on the state of the economy.

Traders will not be able to import vehicles in bulk and will only be allowed to import a limited number of vehicles. Only reconditioned vehicles that are two years old or less will be imported. Their engine capacities, too, will depend on what the government considers can be imported without harming the still fragile economy.

If the vehicle imports prove too much of a burden on the country’s economy and lead to serious strain on the US dollar and the country’s foreign reserves, the Treasury will not hesitate to re-impose restrictions, the official added.

(sundaytimes.lk)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by sundaytimes.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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JVP death threats to Hudson

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A serious death threat has been levelled against Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Hudson Samarasinghe by JVP Central Committee member and NPP National Executive member Wasantha Samarasinghe.

The death threat by Wasantha Samarasinghe is being circulated on social media and Hudson Samarasinghe’s life is in great danger.

Wasantha Samarasinghe had said that there will be no room to hide and they will settle this score at the election and Hudson Samarasinghe will not be allowed to flee the country. Even if he flees the country, there are more people of Malimawa (Compass) in those countries, Wasantha Samarasinghe said.

Wasantha Samarasinghe who had said that there is no escape from the law, added that Sri Lankans in other countries had teamed up with Malimawa) and Hudson will end up on the Moon.

Hudson Samarasinghe, one of the most experienced media broadcasters in the country, is also a veteran media administrator. A former Member of Parliament, Hudson is the SLBC Chairman for the sixth time.

(sundayobserver.lk)
(This story, originally published by sundayobserver.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Presidential election on September 21

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Nominations for the presidential election are set to be accepted only in mid-August, not earlier, with the announcement of the exact date to be made in the coming week, Election Commission sources said yesterday.

Accordingly, the election is now expected to be held on September 21, instead of October 5 or 12, as earlier indicated. Constitutionally, after the announcement of the elections, nominations should be received within 16 to 21 days, and elections should be held within 28 to 42 days, thereby giving the Commission a maximum of 63 days to conduct the poll.

Political parties, election monitoring groups and civil society groups have stepped up their campaigns, calling on the Election Commission to announce the day of nominations as early as possible. The Commission, since last Wednesday (July 17), has been empowered to make an announcement about the day of the nominations.

Elections Commissioner General Saman Shri Ratnayake told the Sunday Times that political parties and other groups should refrain from demanding an early declaration of elections as it could be seen as an interference in the Commission’s activities.

Election Commission Chairman R.M.A.L. Ratnayake told the Sunday Times that the nominations for the election would be called for “in the next few days”, with the arrangements well underway for the conduct of the polls.

He said in the latest of a series of meetings with officials, he met with Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena and Treasury officials on Wednesday, where an assurance was given that the allocation of Rs 10 billion would be released in keeping with the requirements.

He said that it was pointed out at the meeting that expenses could be doubled compared to the previous presidential election.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has requested Police Chief Deshabandu Tennakkoon to draw out a security plan for the nomination day and the campaign period leading up to the election. The Commission has also requested a plan regarding the deployment of police personnel and vehicles.

A cabinet paper was submitted by President Ranil Wickremesinghe this week on increasing the personal security of candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Accordingly, approval was granted to appoint a committee to oversee the personal security arrangements of the candidates. The committee consists of the Public Security Ministry Secretary, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Inspector General of Police, the Chief of National Intelligence, and the Senior Deputy Inspector General in charge of elections.

(sundaytimes.lk)
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by sundaytimes.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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