The Presidential Media Centre (PMC) was declared open yesterday (29) under the patronage of Senior Advisor to President, Lalith Weeratunga.
The Media Centre is located at the ground floor of the old Chartered Bank building in front of the President’s House in Colombo Fort.
The Presidential Media Centre aims to provide accurate and efficient information to the media and the public on the progress of the implementation of programmes to fulfill the pledges made to the people in the policy statement, “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”.
During this weekly media briefing, journalists get an opportunity to ask questions directly or via online from the President’s Spokesman and government officials on selected topics. The Media Centre is equipped with a number of facilities and it can host up to 40 journalists at a time.
President’s Senior Advisor Lalith Weeratunga said that he believed that the Presidential Media Centre would help to build a comprehensive new media culture that goes beyond the popular media culture.
The journalists were briefed today on the progress and future plans of the COVID 19 vaccination drive. Responding to the questions directed by the journalists, Mr. Weeratunga said that the vaccination of all citizens over the age of 30 would be completed by September 15th. He also added that the plans have been made to vaccinate all between the age group of 18-30 and will be implemented as soon as the recommendations of the World Health Organization are received.
“According to a recent report, over 90% of the vaccines have been shared among the wealthiest countries in the world while only less than 5% of global vaccines have been distributed among the developing countries. Therefore, the progress made by Sri Lanka in acquiring vaccine stocks is a great accomplishment,” Mr. Weeratunga added.
Director General of the President’s Media Division Sudewa Hettiarachchi noted that it is the responsibility of all the journalists to make the Presidential Media Centre a unique facility for sharing accurate information.
Spokesperson to the President, Kingsly Rathnayaka highlighted that the Presidential Media Centre could be introduced as one of the foremost steps taken to fulfill the President’s promise to provide accurate information to the public as envisioned in the national policy framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”.
He briefed the media at length on the progress made by the COVID-19 vaccination drive and the steps taken by the President to carry it out more effectively.
Full text of the statement by Presidential Spokesperson
I would like to inform you of the progress made in the COVID-19 vaccination programme as well as the steps taken by the President to make the vaccination programme more effective.
We got to know about emergence of a novel coronavirus during December 2019.The COVID-19 pandemic that broke out from Wuhan in China began to spread across the world.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 virus, the President was of the view that an organized programme was needed to deal with any situation that could arise due to a virus outbreak.
Accordingly, on January 26 last year, the President appointed a Presidential Task Force on Prevention of COVID-19. The President took steps to appoint health experts, officers from the security forces and officials from relevant Ministries to the Task Force.
The first COVID-19 patient in our country was reported on January 27 last year. She is a Chinese woman who visited our country from Hubei as a tourist.
By the time the first COVID-19 patient was reported on January 27, the government had already begun plans to control a future COVID-19 wave.
The first Sri Lankan COVID-19 patient in our country was reported on March 11 last year. On the same day, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Subsequently, the government took steps to close all schools, universities and educational institutions in the country.
When the first cluster of COVID-19 emerged in Sri Lanka, the government imposed strict travel restrictions and educated the public on how to protect themselves from the pandemic. The government intervened and treated all those who contracted COVID-19. All those who came in to contact with COVID-19 patients were found with the help of the intelligence services and quarantined.
The government also imposed quarantine curfew to protect the public from the virus. During this period, the government took steps to provide an allowance of Rs. 5,000 twice to some 5.9 million families who lost their sources of income. At the same time, a number of concessions, including loans, were also given to the public.
The government was able to successfully control the first COVID-19 wave due to the mechanism which was implemented under the guidance of the President. During this time, many other countries were severely affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. However, no COVID-19 patients were reported from the society in Sri Lanka for several months.
The second wave of COVID-19, began to spread around factories and markets in October of last year. However, early this year, the government was able to control the second wave of COVID-19 to a large extent.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 as a result of people travelling in groups during the previous Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Health officials have discovered that a number of new strains of the COVID-19 virus have entered the country. As these strains spread faster and easier than before, the number of infected people increased rapidly in recent years.
During the course of the pandemic, Sri Lanka made significant progress in identifying COVID-19 patients, maintaining the quarantine process through tracing the contacts of patients, and treating patients. Owing to that, we were able to maintain a lower death rate in comparison to other countries.
In the meantime, while strengthening the social and health mechanism required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the President also paid attention towards vaccines to combat the virus and other affiliated research.
Accordingly, the President appointed a Presidential Task Force on December 31 last year to implement the National COVID-19 Vaccination Drive. The Task Force, headed by Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, was entrusted with bringing down a safe COVID-19 vaccine to Sri Lanka as soon as possible.
At the same time, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made numerous attempts to acquire vaccines to combat the virus for the sake of the people of Sri Lanka. He personally held talks with the Heads of States in several countries including in China, India and Russia and also held discussions with the High Commissions and Embassies.
As a result of those efforts made, our country is now receiving the full number of vaccines required to continue the vaccination drive. Therefore, the government has been able to carry out the vaccination process scientifically and in a proper manner.
Following the request by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the Prime Minister of India, we received a haul of 500,000 anti-COVID 19 vaccines.
The Indian High Commissioner officially handed over the vaccine stock to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on January 28th this year. The very next day, on January 29th, the government commenced administering the vaccines. Even before the vaccine stock reached Sri Lanka, the mechanism for vaccination drive had been premeditated by the Task Force led by Mr. Lalith Weeratunga.
As per a request by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the President of China, we received a donation of 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine on March 31st.In addition to that, on March 07 this year, Sri Lanka received 264,000 (Two hundred and sixty-four thousand) doses of Covishield vaccine under the World Health Organization’s Covax facility.
Thereafter, the United States provided us with 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine through the Covax facility.
As of July 28, Sri Lanka had received 10.7 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine and 1,264,000 (One million two hundred sixty-four thousand) doses of Covishield vaccine.
In addition, we have received 180,000 (One hundred and eighty thousand) doses of Sputnik and 202,000 doses (Two hundred two thousand) of Pfizer.
Sri Lanka, in its vaccination programme, uses only the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization.
In February this year, the government signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India to acquire another million Covishield vaccines.
However, during the first quarter of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic in India escalated. Therefore, we were only able to obtain 500,000 doses of what we had ordered.
Consequently, a problematic situation arose in administering the second dose of the Covishield vaccine. The government made a concerted effort to obtain the required doses of Covishield vaccines to administer the second dose. As one of the steps in this process, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a request to the Prime Minister of Japan to provide Covishield vaccines.
As a result, Sri Lanka will receive 1.47 million Covishield vaccines from Japan within next few weeks. It has been decided to allocate 600,000 doses for those who have taken the first dose in the Colombo District. The President has instructed that the remaining doses be given as the first and second doses to the people of the Kegalle District.
At present, the vaccination process is progressing rapidly, covering all parts of the island.
As of yesterday, 72% of people over the age of 30 years in the country had been given their first dose. The government has also taken steps to give the second dose to 16% of people.
Statistically, more than 8.2 million people have so far received the first dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Also, more than 1.8 million people have taken the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
As of yesterday, 84% of people over the age of 30 years in the Colombo District have been given the first dose. In the Gampaha District, more than 93% have received the first dose. In the Kalutara district this percentage has exceeded 85%.
More than 99% of people over the age of 30 years in the Matale District have received their first dose.
At present, a mobile vaccination service for those who are ill and unable to leave their homes is already in operation on the instructions of the President.
In this way, the government is implementing a vaccination programme that covers all groups of people.
As a result of these organized initiatives and the commitment of the Government led by the President, as well as the health and security sectors, Sri Lanka has now become one of the fastest vaccinating countries in South Asia.
The President always instructed that all the works including the procurement and distribution of vaccines should be done in a more transparent manner. Even the World Bank has appreciated the methods followed by Sri Lanka in the procurement process for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. They have stated that Sri Lanka is one of the leading countries in South Asia in terms of transparency and preciseness of vaccine procurement.
In conclusion, the President would like to thank all those in the healthcare and security sectors, as well as all others in the public and private sectors, for their commitment to making this vaccination programme a success. The President urges all Sri Lankans to not be deceived by the false propaganda about vaccination drive and to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to assist the government in overcoming the socio-economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. – PMD