Sri Lanka to lift lockdown, ease restrictions for vaccinated visitors

Sri Lanka looks set to end a six-week nationwide lockdown on October 1, while at the same time easing border measures for fully vaccinated visitors.

In an announcement on Tuesday (September 28), the government said that from October 1, fully vaccinated tourists and Sri Lankans will no longer be required to take a Covid-19 PCR test upon arrival at the local airport if they present a negative PCR test result at the point of embarkation.

Sri Lanka’s ongoing nationwide lockdown has been in place since August 20 to curb a raging third wave

Unvaccinated visitors, however, will be required to undergo a 14-day hotel or home quarantine.

The move represents a further easing of travel restrictions for fully vaccinated arrivals. Since July, vaccinated tourists can enter Sri Lanka without having to quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 on arrival.

Authorities said that the relaxed rules is partly to boost tourism in the country. Tourist arrivals have been a trickle, averaging about 3,000 per month since mid-January 2021 when the airports reopened after a shutdown due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the government is also planning to end the nationwide lockdown on October 1, as the Covid-19 situation in the South Asian country has improved.

The six-week lockdown was imposed on August 20, and has been extended thrice, as the country struggled to contain a deadly third wave which began in mid-April.

With the looming lockdown lift, industry officials have said they are looking forward to a pick-up in tourist arrivals during the winter season.

In a recent interview in the Daily FT newspaper, national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines chairman Ashok Pathirage spoke of early signs of a tourism revival, “forecasting earnings of over 500 million rupee (US$6.7 million) alone in the upcoming winter season, demand for which is on the rise as the national carrier ramps up services”.

With the recent removal of Sri Lanka from the UK’s travel red list and surveys showing a rise in interest to travel to Sri Lanka, the national carrier will ramp up services to London. In 2019, the UK emerged as Sri Lanka’s second largest tourist source market, after India.

“The season ahead looks very promising and we are getting ready for a busy schedule,” Pathirage was quoted as saying.

As of September 28, Sri Lanka has recorded 515,524 Covid-19 cases and 12,786 related deaths.

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