President assures request can be considered in the next vaccine consignment
Employees in the tourism industry and Board of Investment (BOI) enterprises are likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of March, official sources confirmed yesterday following deliberations on the matter at Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
In response to a request made by Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to provide the vaccine to both sectors, which have been deemed critically important to the economy.
“The President, at the Cabinet meeting, explained that this request cannot be met by the consignment of 500,000 vaccines which arrived in the country last week, but that it will be considered in the next shipment,” official sources told the Daily FT.
The Tourism Minister pointed out that despite the pandemic it was the dedication of these workers that had added $ 8.5 billion to Sri Lanka’s export earnings last year, which accounted for nearly 70% of the country’s total foreign exchange revenue.
There are 14 BOI export processing zones island wide, which houses over 250 factories with over 130,000 employees. Ranatunga thereby pointed out that over half a million people in more than 1,700 factories contribute directly to the manufacturing process in the country. The tourism industry at its full strength has about 300,000 direct employees, though owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that number has reduced.
The minister was of the view that if a program could be formulated to provide the COVID vaccine to the employees of BOI enterprises, it would help the manufacturing process in the country.
Last week another consignment of 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country, totalling 1 million doses of the vaccine.
Ranatunga said last week that 136 countries have not even started getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine yet, and that some developed countries have not been able to vaccinate their citizens yet either.
“We will take steps to provide this vaccine to all citizens in our country within the next two to three months. The Gotabaya-Mahinda combination has always given priority to the people of the country. Within the next few months, we will make Sri Lanka is among the safest countries in the world to have been vaccinated against COVID-19.”