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Health Ministry slams Transport Ministry

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Health Ministry has accused the transport authorities of not having formulated a plan to operate public transport services in accordance with the Covid-19-related health guidelines after the reopening of the country, even though it is essential to do so in order to prevent a further spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (6), Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath said that if the country is to be reopened, a formal plan should be formulated to operate public transport services in line with health guidelines such as maintaining social distance.

“The failure to operate transport services in accordance with proper health guidelines will only lead to the re-emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic as it occurred on previous occasions. It is not enough to stop people from gathering only at weddings and funerals. In the recent past, there were several complaints that public transport services are operating without following health guidelines,” he claimed.

Dr. Herath further stressed that in addition to transport services, arrangements should also be made to minimise crowds at shopping malls and other public places.

“The relevant authorities should take steps to set up a programme targeting such places, especially railway stations, playgrounds, and weekly fairs. Businesses need to run, but it does not mean that people can gather en masse,”

Speaking to the media recently, Dr. Herath added that people should refrain from gathering unnecessarily whether the country is reopened or not. In the future, the existing lockdown status may be extended or not, but plans must be made now itself to stop people from gathering in public places once the country reopens, he noted.

Taking into account the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus and the increase in the number of Covid-19 deaths in the country, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on 20 August, declared a lockdown status till 30 August and it was then extended till 6 September. At a meeting attended by high-level government officials on 3 September, the lockdown status was again extended till 13 September.

Transport Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Transport Ministry Secretary Monti Ranatunga were not available for comment.