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Sri Lanka Health Inspectors Withdraw From Covid-19 Duties Over Minister's Remarks Against Them

Sri Lankan police commandos prepare to spray disinfectants in a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo)

Sri Lankan police commandos prepare to spray disinfectants in a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo)

Minister Wanniarachchi recently said that PHI officers engaged in COVID-19 duties were causing inconvenience by revealing details of the latest detections of coronavirus patients to the media.

Public health inspectors in Sri Lanka on Friday announced that they will refrain from COVID-19 related duties to protest Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi's recent remarks against them.

Minister Wanniarachchi recently said that PHI officers engaged in COVID-19 duties were causing inconvenience by revealing details of the latest detections of coronavirus patients to the media.

Public Health Inspectors Union (PHIU) in a statement said they are protesting Wanniarachchi's remarks that PHIs had caused problems in COVID-19 prevention and therefore they would not be provided legal cover for their work.

They said they were withdrawing from all COVID-19 combat work from mid-day Friday.

Health Minister Wanniarachchi's comments came as she took action to gazette the health guidelines after a long delay on holding the August 5 parliamentary elections.

The Election Commission had complained that guidelines that were forwarded to the authorities early June had not been given legal effect by way of a gazette publication even by Thursday.

Election Commission chief Mahinda Deshapriya said it would be extremely difficult to conduct the election on August 5 without the gazette on health guidelines.

The PHIs told the Election Commission that the legal cover for their work was a must as people tend to object to and ignore their work to comply with health guidelines without the legal cover.

It was announced Saturday morning that COVID-19 (Elections) regulations 2020 are to deal only with issues concerning election rallies, canvassing by political parties and maintenance of elections offices by political parties. This excludes the PHI functions in respective areas to enforce health guidelines.

The election which had been twice postponed is due to be held on August 5.

The need for legality to the health guidelines became even more important in the face of what seemed a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A sudden spike of over 500 cases from the north-central region forced the cancellation of election campaigning and closure of schools. PTI CORR

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