Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Sri Lanka begin easing COVID-19 restrictions from May 11. Visa suspension, border closures continue.

This alert affects Sri Lanka

This alert began 11 May 2020 02:33 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions, travel restrictions, increased security; possible clashes

Summary
Authorities in Sri Lanka are revising restrictions placed to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of May 11. In addition to the resumption of most business activities with social distancing measures, movement controls are easing. Officials will enforce a nationwide daily curfew 2000-0500, except in the Colombo and Gampaha districts, where the ongoing 24-hour curfew will continue. Extended curfew hours may also apply to identified localities with COVID-19 clusters.

The use of face masks in public remains mandatory. During the curfew, residents must stay at home except for emergency, essential, and work purposes. Authorities will restrict the outdoor movement of citizens for essential purchases by identity card number; those with cards ending in numbers one and two can go out on Monday, in three and four on Tuesday, and so on. While government offices will function with up to half its staff capacity, private offices may open from 1000 daily with adequate hygiene and social distancing measures. Public transport such as buses and trains will resume for essential and work-related travel, with reduced capacity. Private transport like rickshaws and taxis may restart operations with limited passenger capacity; passenger limits for three and four-wheeled vehicles are two and three, respectively. Nonessential movement between districts is barred. Nationwide measures, such as the closure of educational institutions and entertainment venues, as well as a ban on all public gatherings, including religious congregations, continue.

Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas, especially prior to extended curfew periods. Sporadic clashes are possible if any group defies official orders. Police are likely to act quickly to control such incidents.

Travel Restrictions

Sri Lankan authorities have indefinitely suspended the issuance of all visa types - including electronic, landing, multiple-entry, and residential - to foreigners, regardless of nationality; previously issued visas for foreign nationals, including residential permits, stand temporarily suspended. Such travelers will not be allowed to enter Sri Lanka. The restrictions do not apply to holders of diplomatic, official, and service passports. Foreigners who have entered Sri Lanka on or before March 14 will receive visa extensions at least until June 11.

Officials have also suspended all inbound international passenger flights indefinitely; however, cargo transport, passenger transit, and international departures will continue at the Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). Officials had previously halted all international services at the Jaffna International Airport (JAF) - Sri Lanka's only other functional international airport. While domestic flights are unaffected, international passenger ships such as cruises and ferries are barred indefinitely; port operations for goods transport continue.

The rollback of relaxations, as well as further enforcement of stricter curfews in designated high-risk areas, are possible in the coming days , depending on in-country cases.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure that contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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