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Statement by Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Foreign Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka at the 31st Special Session of the General Assembly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 03/04 December 2020

Mr President
Mr Secretary-General
Your Majesties
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset, I thank H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly for convening the Special Session in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as proposed by the Non Aligned Movement and Azerbaijan, Chair of the NAM.

I convey my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 Pandemic the greatest global health crisis to face humanity, and express appreciation to the frontline healthcare and essential services workers in Sri Lanka and worldwide, for their dedication and commitment.

Under the leadership of His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka has been managing the spread of COVID-19 through the strict adherence to the Universal Health Precautions and with a whole-of-government approach, targeting zero transmission.

A National Operation Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak was established to carry out operations to combat the pandemic. A digital platform - ‘Stay Safe’ – facilitates public engagement for contact tracing. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Prevention effectively coordinates these measures. The free Universal Health Care facility that Sri Lanka provides to its people has also lessened the spread of the virus.

Sri Lanka focuses on eliminating COVID-19 from the country in the year 2021. The mechanism and strategic plan the Government has currently deployed to respond to the pandemic while maintaining normalcy in the daily life, consist of 10 pillars: national level coordination, planning and review as the first pillar, raising awareness among the public about the risk and active participation of the society in the mitigation process as the second, supervision, rapid response and detection as the third, monitoring at the ports of entry and inland transportations routes as the fourth, strengthening the laboratory system as the fifth, control and prevention of the spread of the virus as the sixth, adequate handling of patients as the seventh, expediting facilities to all the healthcare services as the eighth, continuation of the essential health services as the ninth and ensuring social security and continuation of economic activities as the tenth.

In addressing the socio-economic impact caused by the pandemic, the Government has granted financial relief and dry rations to over six million families and vulnerable groups, established a COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund and provides financial facilities to local businesses.

Sri Lanka has a long history of successful vaccination programmes. When introducing the COVID-19 vaccination programme the Government ensures that public confidence is maintained. Sri Lanka is already included in the COVAX facility for COVID-19 vaccination. For the implementation of a more safe vaccine programme in liaison with the WHO, a Coordination Committee consisted of highest level experts at the Ministry of Health has been appointed. Following the discussions with WHO, UNICEF, ADB and World Bank the Government has been able to secure funds for improvement and procurement of equipments for the maintenance of vaccine cold-chains.

As this virus transcends all national boundaries, the role of the United Nations is pivotally felt today. Sri Lanka reiterates the call of the UN Secretary General to make the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good – free and accessible to all. The United Nations needs to mobilize all resources and partners to this end, without any exception.

Sri Lanka reiterates its support to the extensive work carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO). Since many countries are facing repeated waves of the virus, the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator should be facilitated by all stakeholders.

Sri Lanka notes with concern that increased international financing and moratorium on debt are required for developing countries at this time of crisis.  Sri Lanka reiterates that the Middle-Income countries (MICs) be given special attention and joins Secretary General’s call to broaden the eligibility for G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and to include the MICs.

As we finally pass through this Pandemic, let us hope that in a post Pandemic era through coordinated and collective action aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, we may build an inclusive and more resilient post-COVID world which is fairer and greener.

Ayubowan! Thank you.

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