All international airports in Sri Lanka will prohibit passengers from disembarking between May 21 and 31 in the country’s latest move to curb a rising tide of Covid-19 infections.
The decision by the director general of civil aviation on May 19 will affect both Sri Lankan residents and foreign tourists, and joins an island-wide lockdown order passed earlier this week that will apply from this weekend and into next week.
The new restrictions will impact Wesak on May 26 and 27, a festival that marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, the spiritual leader of Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community.
Sri Lanka has seen a recent spike in cases, with daily caseloads of over 1,500 and deaths topping 1,000 on May 18. The total number of cases as at May 18 was 147,720.
The border restriction will not apply to departing passengers, emergency aircraft, freight operations and humanitarian flights, as well as passengers transiting through Colombo to another destination.
The move is regarded as a further blow to Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which has been seeing only a trickle of international arrivals despite reopening her borders on January 21, 2021.
Devindre Seneratne, managing director at JourneyScapes Travels and former president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, told TTG Asia that the association supports the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic by imposing necessary lockdowns.
“It’s unfortunate that tourism gets affected but this is beyond anyone’s control,” he remarked.
Travel agency owner Nilmin Nanayakkara is bracing for inbound cancellations, but also acknowledges that health is a priority for all.
Despite the ongoing crisis, tourism authorities are continuing their marketing efforts. One of their most prominent effort is fielding Sri Lankan Tourism chairperson Kimarli Fernando in numerous interviews on international channels such as BBC and CNN to promote the country’s tourism draws.