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Militarised vaccination drive carried out across the North-East

Sri Lankan military security forces across the districts of Mannar, Mullaitivu, Jaffna and Vavuniya administered COVID-19 vaccines for locals over the last two weeks.

Military personnel facilitated and administered vaccines and oversaw the operations across the North-East.

Mannar

In Mannar, residents over 30 from a few coastal villages were given their first dose of the Pifzer vaccine last week, with an estimated 20,000 distributed to the district. However, many locals who went for a vaccine on Monday were turned away due to a lack of vaccinations available, despite being from a high-risk area.

Mullaitivu

In Mullaitivu, the vaccination drive last week focussed on teachers within the district and individuals over the age of 60. The district had received 4,000 doses in which 1,120 people over the age of 60 received their first dose and a further 1,600 teachers also received a vaccination. Military officers assisted in the administration of the vaccines at the Divisional Hospital at Unapilavu, Mullaitivu. Major General Sisira Pilapitiya, the head commander of the Mullaitivu security forces, oversaw the vaccine provision at the hospital.

Vavuniya

In Vavuniya, vaccines were administered to residents over the age of 60 under the organisation of the Sri Lankan army. Around 1,000 doses of vaccines were administered with the aid of army officers last week at the Gamini Maha Vidyalaya.

Reflective of the highly militarised nature of the state the military involvement and response to the public health crisis have been widely condemned and criticised as another mean to harass, surveil and intimidate Tamil and Muslim people across the North-East. In recent weeks, Sri Lankan state forces have assaulted Tamils and Muslims for allegedly breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules. Furthermore, families reliant on state food rations whilst self-isolating have been left starving as they have not been delivered on time and are often far less than their promised amount.

Amnesty International 'slammed' Sri Lanka's discriminatory COVID-19 response, highlighting a number of failures. In a scathing report Amnesty International slammed Sri Lanka’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic highlighting the gag order on the health care sector; the prioritisation of those with economic or political privilege at the expense of at-risk groups; the abuse of factory workers and prisoners; as well as the lack of a comprehensive plan to vaccinate the whole population.

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