Colombo, March 16 (IANS) Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to cancel all public meetings to raise awareness on the importance of minimising gatherings in the wake of the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic which has infected 11 people in the island nation.
Speaking to the Daily Financial Times newspaper, Rajapaksa’s spokesman Premanath Dolawatte said on Sunday that the decision was taken to support the government’s quarantine measures to contain the disease’s spread.
He added that the Prime Minister had instructed officials to minimise public events, while the government has decided to cancel all public and private sector events for two weeks which came into effect on Sunday
“This was a decision taken by the Prime Minister to promote public safety. Usually thousands of people gather for meetings that the Prime Minister attends. Therefore, he decided to not to attend any event until the situation is under control,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), headed by Rajapaksa, has also decided to temporally halt all public meetings for two weeks.
“We will be monitoring the situation closely and what steps need to be taken to control the spread of the virus will also be taken into consideration. At the moment we are only focusing on containing the virus and ensuring the public’s safety,” SLPP spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the Daily Financial Times.
Regarding the April 25 general elections, Rambukwella said chances of postponing the polls were however, slim due to clauses in election law.
“There is no provision in the Constitution to postpone an election once it is gazetted. Therefore, I believe the matter should be taken up before the Supreme Court if any necessity arises due to the virus spread,” he added.
Also on Sunday, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requesting him to summon a meeting of all heads of political parties and other relevant bodies, agencies, and authorities, so as to work out a comprehensive strategy to combat the COVID-19 spread that was acceptable to the public and all stakeholders.
In Sri Lanka, there are 1,719 persons currently under quarantine at 10 centres.
Of the 11 confirmed cases, the latest is a 45-year old Sri Lankan who arrived from Germany.