Lankan Ministry of Epidemics denies appointing panel on disposal of COVID dead – NewsIn.Asia


Colombo, January 4: The Sri Lankan State Ministry of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Primary Disease Control has refuted media reports claiming that a committee has been appointed to make recommendations on the issues surrounding the cremation of the remains of Covid victims in Sri Lanka.

Issuing a statement, the Ministry said there is no truth to recent reports published on various media that State Minister Sudharshini Fernandopulle had appointed a committee to deliberate if the remains of Covid victims should be cremated or buried.

State Minister Fernandopulle has pointed out that as Covid-19 is a new disease, initial recommendations made by the World Health Organization are subject to change with new emerging evidence.

She has further insisted that Covid-19 disease control should always be based on science, while religion, race, politics, social and mythical beliefs should not be considered when taking decisions on disease control.

Stating that eminent virologists and other medical and scientific experts have been advised to make periodic recommendations on the disease, the statement said no request has been made to deliberate the issue over the cremation of remains of Covid-19 victims.

(The picture at the top shows the Sri Lankan Minister of Epidemics, Dr.Sudarshani Fernandopulle)

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Singapore to invest more in next 5-year plan for R&D, including new programme to prepare for future epidemics


SINGAPORE: Singapore will invest S$25 billion – or 1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – in research, innovation and enterprise for the next five years. 

The Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan (RIE2025), announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at a press conference on Friday (Dec 11), includes a new national programme to prepare for future epidemics.

RIE2025 will expand research and development in four domains – manufacturing, trade and connectivity; human health and potential; urban solutions and sustainability; and Smart Nation and digital economy. 

It will also support businesses in adopting science and technology, and expanding into adjacent areas with “high growth potential”. In addition, it will customise support according to different enterprise segments.

READ: Digital tech, food security among key areas to get more R&D funding

READ: Singapore rolls out national strategy on artificial intelligence for ‘impactful’ social, economic benefits

RIE2025 is the third such five-year plan, which has seen its budget go up progressively over the years. It was S$19 billion for RIE2020, while S$16 billion was set aside for RIE2015.

Within the RIE2025 budget, 15 per cent will be set aside for “White Space”, said Mr Heng, which will give the RIE domains flexibility to reallocate their budgets.

“This will give us greater agility and nimbleness in responding to emerging priorities, new breakthroughs and changes in the global technological landscape.”

Nearly 30 per cent of the new budget, or S$7.3 billion, will be set aside for universities and A*STAR research institutes, 26 per cent to support increased R&D into its four domains and 9 per cent will be set aside for talent development.

HUMAN HEALTH AND POTENTIAL

As science and technology become “more pervasive”, there is a need to “refresh” the four RIE domains to “better drive economic growth post-COVID and address the broader spectrum of national needs”, said Mr Heng.

The Health and Biomedical Sciences domain will be expanded to include Human Potential, to tackle issues of an ageing population and low birth rate.

“We must continue to enable our people to enjoy good health and to realise their full potential,” he said, adding that the Government will invest more in preschools and research into improving prenatal and early childhood development.

For instance, Singapore’s largest birth cohort study, called Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO), will be expanded to study the factors that influence adolescent growth and maturity. 

The study has tracked participants since early pregnancy, continuing with both mothers and children, and insights from GUSTO have informed the review and implementation of new health policies in Singapore, including universal screening for gestational diabetes mellitus for all pregnant mothers across public healthcare institutions.

READ: Eliminating paper documents, S$300m research fund top-up among MCI’s 2019 plans

READ: A*STAR to reorganise research units for more ‘clarity’ on funding


Ministers Grace Fu, Chan Chun Sing, Heng Swee Keat, Lawrence Wong and S Iswaran at the announcement of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan (RIE2025). (Photo: MCI)

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Sustainability and the Environment Minister Grace Fu, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, and Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran were also at the announcement of RIE2025.

Mr Wong said the National Institute of Education will have a new Science of Learning in Education Centre (SoLEC) that will integrate research across different fields in child development curriculum, instruction learning sciences and sports science.

“It will provide an important bridge between cutting edge research that’s done in the universities in our research institutions and teaching practices in the classrooms.”

Investments will also be made in research projects related to the health and well-being of seniors.

In addition, the Government will develop a new National R&D Programme for Epidemic Preparedness and Response (PREPARE) to prepare for future pandemics, said Mr Wong.

URBAN SOLUTIONS AND SUSTAINABILITY

The Government seeks to better integrate urban solutions and sustainability, and pursue the latter in a “broader way”, said Mr Heng.

RIE2025 will make the built environment more efficient and sustainable by adopting robotics and automation and 3D concrete printing.

It will look into decarbonising Singapore’s power, industry and transport sectors by exploring low carbon technologies.

In addition, the Government is “taking climate change seriously”, he added. “We’re committed to reducing our carbon footprint, to fulfil our pledge made under the Paris accord and protect ourselves from rising sea levels.”

For example, it will conduct climate modelling to understand the impact of increased urban heat island effect and warming trends on health and food resilience, said Ms Fu.

It will strengthen food resilience and preserve Singapore’s biodiversity.

MANUFACTURING, TRADE AND CONNECTIVITY

As part of the Government’s boost for manufacturing, it is looking at the “next generation of transport solutions” that will strengthen Singapore’s air and maritime connectivity to the world, said Mr Chan.

“Over the last 12 months through COVID, we have seen how both natural causes like the pandemic have disrupted our supply chains. We have also seen how man-made factors like export restriction policies have compounded the disruption of our supply chains,” he said.

As such, the Government is looking into improving the resilience of Singapore’s supply chain, from food to intermediate industrial products.

SMART NATION AND DIGITAL ECONOMY

RIE2025 will accelerate the development, translation and adoption of “key technology areas” like AI, cybersecurity, trust technologies, communications and connectivity and quantum computing, said Mr Iswaran.

As it aims to develop “globally-relevant, leading digital solutions”, Singapore will need to do more to “strengthen the translation of research findings into tangible products and services”, he added.

This will include investments in communications technologies R&D, focusing on 5G and future communications technologies, and drive a nationwide AI model-building and adoption. 

“Digital technologies are set to change the game in the next bound of economic development and through our RIE efforts, we will ensure that Singapore continues to be well-placed to seize the opportunities of the digital future.” 



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