United National Party (UNP) has put forward 21 proposals for the immediate management of the Covid pandemic. Construction of temporary field hospitals with maximum support from the Army and construction companies, placement of all Covid 19 related expenditures under a separate head of expenditure accountable to the Cabinet and Parliament also among these proposals.
The 21 proposals are as follows.
1. Construction of temporary field hospitals with maximum support from the Army and construction companies. This includes the provision of new beds for patients.
2. The Government should immediately seek international assistance in obtaining artificial ventilators for patients with respiratory distress as well as in maintaining the required oxygen capacity. Air facilities should be used to bring these to the country as soon as possible.
3. The services of retired medical professionals as well as private healthcare professionals should be sought to assist the health staff in the country. It is timely to seek the assistance of other retired health workers as much as possible.
4. Vaccine procurement process should be expedited and it is recommended to suspend the existing procurement process for COVID-19 related activities and implement an emergency procurement process.
5. Covid immunization program should be expanded to include children over 12 years of age, subject to parental approval.
6. The vaccination program should be expedited and a practical time frame for the vaccination program should be established by the medical authorities.
7. The number of PCR tests performed on the public should be increased.
8. All members of the health service should undergo regular PCR tests and be provided with health care equipment for personal use.
9. Steps should be taken to maintain statistics containing accurate data on Covid-19 infections and deaths.
10. There are no legal provisions for the Covid Task Force. Those powers are vested in the Cabinet, the Disaster Management Council and the Director-General of Health Services. Therefore, this task force should be abolished immediately and the Cabinet should take responsibility here. Accordingly, the Disaster Management Council comprising the relevant Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, Members of the Main Opposition and officials should be convened soon. The cabinet should function through them.
11. In addition, a special advisory panel of individuals recommended by the World Health Organization should be set up to assist the Cabinet.
12. The Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Health should meet weekly to update the Parliamentarians on the current situation in the country regarding Covid-19.
13. The primary role in Covid-19 and all related activities should be entrusted to the medical authorities and the Army and other necessary agencies should be maintained as support groups. In accordance with the Health Services Act, all Covid-19 suppression activities must be under the direct control and supervision of health professionals.
14. The “Public Health Emergency Bill” introduced by the Opposition should be drafted by Parliament and enacted immediately. The partial relief bill “Coronavirus – 2019 (COVID-19) (Provisional Provisions)” proposed by the government should also be passed.
15. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given its member states the exclusive right to request the necessary resources to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. This will provide additional financial resources to the health sector. Accordingly, the fund has allocated an additional $ 800 million to the Sri Lankan health sector, which should be spent on Covid expenses, including the purchase of vaccines.
16. The Sri Lankan economy is facing a severe crisis due to the Covid-19 epidemic and the lack of foreign exchange reserves. There is also no room for emergency economic relief programs. Therefore, the government should immediately initiate discussions with the International Monetary Fund to secure the necessary funding.
17. Public and private sector employees should adopt the method of working from home to reduce the movement of citizens.
18. Public transport should also be limited to half of its capacity and the public should be restricted to essential travel only.
19. Country borders should be closed immediately for all non-vaccinated tourists.
20. The Disaster Management Council and educational institutions should jointly prepare a plan for the education of children. It should ensure the resumption of safe schooling or the equality of all children in the country.
21. A separate Expenditure Head should be established to monitor all COVID-19 expenditure. This will be the responsibility of the Cabinet and Parliament.