Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed nation on Tuesday commended the public to render their extreme support to the Government’s efforts to save the country from the COVID-19 outbreak.
In his speech to the Nation, the Premier Minister outlined the measures taken to mitigate the pandemic outbreak and appreciated the sacrifices made by health workers by the Government, all related parties on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The full speech of the Prime Minister:
“Around the world over 200 countries are fighting against the Coronavirus and it has been seen how thousands of their citizens are being taken to the cemeteries.
Whether we live or die will be determined on how we handle this virus. It will take a lot of commitment and discipline if we are to triumph over this virus.
From the first moment this virus was detected, the President and government acted with great interest in what happens to our people.
That is why we sent an aircraft to bring back the students who were stranded in Wuhan before any other country, when the Coronavirus erupted.
By the time they were brought back to the country the quarantine centres were ready. We very quickly established over 40 quarantine centres around the country to quarantine people who return to the country from overseas.
Now these centres can accommodate thousands for quarantine at any given point. These are not just facilities with accommodation. These centres offer good food, bedding, sanitary facilities and every detail is attended to including medical attention, even the cup of Kottamalli is given to all those in quarantine during their entire 14 day period.
Those who go to the quarantine centres with sour faces, leave these quarantine centres smiling and happy. This is because they were looked after well and every possible facility was given to them.
We also constructed a special hospital to care for Coronavirus patients in just six days.
In addition, we identified those who were suspected of having contracted the Coronavirus and took measures to quarantine them at their own homes and those who were evading, our intelligence services were deployed to track them and get them to quarantine centres to save the larger community.
The moment the Coronavirus hit, we closed all schools and universities to safeguard the children from this virus. We were one of the first countries to set up the presidential task force to deal with the Coronavirus.
We also did everything in our power to control the price of goods. There are 416,000 elderly in our country but we provided the payment of Rs. 5000 to 442,000 elderly persons. Then we had to see to the disabled.
There were only 22,000 of the disabled persons who were eligible to receive this payment, but we paid it to an additional 38,000.
We also had to give this payment to 160,000 farmers and 4,600 fisher folk. There were only 25,000 kidney patients on our payment list, but we paid this amount to even the 13,850 who were on the waiting list.
Triposha has been sent to the homes of all pregnant mothers and malnourished children. Recently, 645,000 pensioners were paid their pensions.
Now as the state institutions are closed due to the virus 1.5 million state sector employees are at home. However, we have already taken steps to pay them their April salaries.
We had planned to recruit 40,000 unemployed graduates, but now we are going to use them for quarantine duties and help them make a living.
There are 1.7 million Samurdhi beneficiaries in the country and another 600,000 on the waiting list. We are taking measures to pay them all the allowance of Rs. 5000.
We also had to think of the around 1.5 million others such as trishaw drivers, school van operators, bur operators etc who are out of work due to the curfew. We have taken steps to grant them concessions in payment of their leasing etc.
We have not passed funds by parliament to do all this. When parliament was convened and we asked for funds the opposition did not support us. Now what is the point in reconvening parliament?
The whole world knows that the head of the WHO commended our President for the steps taken to control the spread of the Coronavirus. We have already paid over 5 million of our citizens to help them weather this period.
At this point we are focussed on dealing with the crisis at hand and don’t need to be engaging in debates. Despite all the government income sources being dysfunctional, we are still looking into the best interest of the people.
Our garment trade was hampered as Europe has stopped importing our goods over the pandemic and we used to receive a considerable income from migrant workers in Italy and the Middle East. But, that too is hampered due to the Coronavirus.
The tourism trade world-wide has taken a hit due to the Coronavirus. Yet, with all the difficulties, we have not refused the people and we have looked after them despite our own difficulties. We will not give up this fight.
We have taken all decisions without considering politics, religion or race. This is a unique moment when all political parties are committed to working together to defeat the common enemy, the Coronavirus.
At a time when medical staff of other countries are refusing to attend to the sick due to not having been provided proper personal protection gear, we are blessed to have committed medical staff who sew their own masks and come to work to attend to the sick.
Out doctors and tri forces personnel are dedicated to attending to the sick and serving their country leaving their spouses and children at home. We are proud of our people and even the Public Health Inspectors are going house to house identifying and attending to those infected even risking their own lives.
We are all fortunate to live in such a country. Even the efforts of the local government establishments and their staff should be commended.
The soldiers who sacrificed everything during the war are now giving up their barracks for the quarantine centres to be established and they are sleeping on the cement floors.
There are thousands of young people waiting for an opportunity to serve their country. We are blessed to be born in such a country and as long as we have this compassion among us we will never be alone.
Hence, we need to triumph over this adversity very soon. Now there is much enthusiasm about growing our own food in our back yards. Our youth are manufacturing the beds needed for our hospitals.
Some are even inventing robots to be deployed in the ICUs. When I see all this I am proud of my country. When all this is over, we will develop our own industries, grow our own food and develop as a united nation.
We have faced much bigger challenges in the past as a nation and staying indoors for a short period is not something we can’t do. Hence, I appeal to my loving people to please bear this us and stay indoors for the sake of the country.
I am confident that we can overcome this crisis without facing the fate suffered by other countries. We will rise together not as a developed nation but as a healthy nation. I wish you all a prosperous future!”.