UNP tells government not to bring back Lankans from China

Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam yesterday accused the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) of downplaying the growing threat posed by the coronavirus.

Alleging that the GMOA always caused trouble during the UNP administration, former Education Minister Kariyawasam claimed that the GMOA now played politics with the extremely serious health threat.

The UNP General Secretary said so in response to media query at the regular Sirikotha media briefing. Kariyawasam said that he had no problem regarding the media taking the GMOA’s assurance that coronavirus didn’t pose a serious threat to Sri Lanka.

Referring to international media reports, Kariyawasam pointed out that over 130 people had died from coronavirus so far in China and thousands had been infected. In spite of at least one Chinese woman being tested positive in Sri Lanka, in addition to several other suspected cases, the government was yet to take tangible measures to thwart the possible outbreak of the disease.

Kariyawasam alleged that the government and the GMOA had deceived the public by claiming the situation was under control.

Sri Lanka would be overwhelmed by coronavirus as it lacked even the basic facilities (Bio-safety Level 3-BSL 3) required to meet the threat posed to both medical personnel and others. The UNP General Secretary urged the government to act decisively or face the consequences.

Asked by The Island whether he had received a comprehensive briefing from former health minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne before calling the media, Kariyawasam said that he was in touch with specialists in the field.

Kariyawasam censured the government for not having proper facilities.

The absence of BSL 3 level facilities could be fatal, former education minister Kariyawasam warned. Commenting on the set-up at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), the MP emphasised that facilities there were wholly inadequate in addition to shortage of staff.

The former Minister suggested that the government should prohibit Chinese tourists and visitors from coming here.

The Island asked the former minister what the UNP would have done if it had been in power. The former minister was also asked whether the UNP would have prohibited Chinese from coming here in view of the coronavirus outbreak. Kariyawasam said that he couldn’t respond to those questions without studying the issues.

Kariyawasam said that the public weren’t able to obtain required face masks. Alleging that the government’s response to coronavirus totally inadequate, he also faulted Ratnapura government hospital for not following basic precautionary measures.

Lawmaker Kariyawasam faulted the government for its decision to bring home Sri Lankans from China. He urged Sri Lanka to follow Australia, which had its nationals tested and treated in China.

Since the coronavirus outbreak nearly 300 Sri Lankans returned home though those trapped in the stricken region were unable to leave.

The Island sought an explanation from the former minister whether he admitted that the UNP and the SLFP-led coalitions which governed the country for 70 years had failed to ensure even the basic medical facilities required to treat dangerous agents such as coronavirus.

The former minister side-stepped the issue by declaring that he was not seeking political advantage.

The UNPer said that the coronavirus posed a far greater threat than the Easter Sunday suicide attacks carried out by Zahran Hashim last year.

Urging the government to take the threat far more seriously, the former minister said that even school activities and other gatherings would have to be curtailed in line with an overall strategy.

MP Kariyawasam urged the government to send samples for testing in India without further delay.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)