By Sandun A Jayasekera
The heads of intelligence arms of the Police and Armed forces gave a thorough overview on the steps taken to control further spread of COVID-19 viral infection in the country to the cabinet on Wednesday, cabinet spokesman and Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.
The state intelligence heads would also educate the people on TV on Saturday (2) for an hour between 10.00 am and 11.00 am on COVID-19 and the efforts taken by the medical authorities, the armed forces and the police to contain the pandemic successfully, Minister Gunawardana added.
Minister Gunawardana told the weekly cabinet media briefing yesterday that the University of Colombo, Sri Jayewardenepura, Peradeniya, Sabaragamuwa, Jaffna, Kelaniya, Ragama Medical Faculty were ready to carry out 1,000 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests using their machines if the Health Ministry provides necessary logistical support. Explaining several other decisions taken by the cabinet on Wednesday, Minister Gunawardana said the Peoples’ Bank was given the green light to release a soft loan up to Rs. 3 million to farmers who grow exportable crops, spices, vegetables, fruits and other food crops for the domestic and foreign markets. The Agriculture Ministry expects to cultivate 523,500 hectares for the purpose.
The cabinet gave the nod to allocate Rs. 10 billion to import 150,000 metric tons of fertilizer for the next Yala Season on a proposal brought by Agriculture Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. “The Agriculture Ministry plans to set up 200 cluster villages to grow high quality export crops. Small and middle level paddy millers are also qualified to obtain the Rs. 3 million soft loan if they have not defaulted repayment installments,” Minister Gunawardana said.
The cabinet also approved a soft loan scheme ranging between 100,000 to 500,000 for film, teledrama and stage artistes, musicians, singers and lyricists, back up crew members and technical staff as they have been rendered helpless and no income because of the viral infection.
A new special TV channel will be launched in Sinhala and Tamil for school children from grades 1 to 13 on a proposal made by Education Minister Dulles Alahapperuma and Minister Gunawardana. It will be telecast between 4.00 am and 12.00 midnight.
Minister Gunawardana said the country had survived the Malaria epidemic in the 1930s, a 30 year war and two youth uprisings in 1971 and 1989 – 90 periods that killed hundreds of thousands of people and in recent times, the great central bank robbery and the Easter Sunday attack.
“Therefore, the government is determined that the country must go forward with a new determination, new vision and new thinking to win this struggle. As such the civilian life has to be brought to normalcy as early as possible and government would do its best to meet that objectives” he stressed.
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