On Monday, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked health minister Pavithra Wanniaarachchi and reshuffled his cabinet amidst growing opposition criticism that some of the ministries, including health, were underperforming as the coronavirus pandemic worsened.
The changes were made in the foreign, education, transport, media, power, and energy portfolios. This makes the first major changes in the one-year-old government led by President Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda.
Mr Wanniaarachchi, criticised by the opposition for failing to control the COVID-19 situation, was reassigned to transport, considered a less important ministry.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has been named as the new health minister.
COVID-19 deaths have seen a rapid increase in the past few weeks in Sri Lanka, with over 160 deaths and over 3,500 cases daily.
Education minister Lakshman Peiris and foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena swapped roles.
Teachers in Sri Lanka have been conducting street protests over salaries in the last few weeks, and they have boycotted conducting online lessons for over four million students who were unable to attend schools due to the pandemic.
Prime minister Rajapaksa’s son Namal Rajapaksa, then sports minister, was also given the additional responsibility of overseeing development activities.
The changes came in the wake of the government imposing a six-hour nightly curfew with effect from Monday at 10:00 p.m. (1630 GMT) to control the spread of the virus.
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