Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Sri Lanka maintaining many nationwide COVID-19 restrictions as of Sept. 16. International travel ban ongoing.

Alert Begins 16 Sep 2020 03:36 PM UTC
Alert Expires 15 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

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

Summary
Sri Lankan authorities continue to enforce restrictions imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of Sept. 16. Schools and tuition classes have resumed, albeit with social distancing. Large gatherings remain banned. The usage of facemasks in public remains mandatory. Authorities are allowing public and private transport to operate across the country. Some facilities, such as places of worship, parks, and cinema halls, have been allowed to reopen, albeit while enforcing social distancing measures. Authorities are allowing government and private offices to determine the number of employees who work on-site, as long as health precautions are in place. The government may reintroduce or implement stricter measures, especially in designated high-risk areas, depending on in-country cases. Sporadic clashes are possible if any group defies official orders. Police will likely act quickly to control such incidents.

Travel Restrictions
Officials are allowing inbound repatriation flights into the country as of Sept. 16. However, authorities may reduce the number of inbound flights if imported caseloads increase. Authorities have suspended issuance of all visa types, including electronic, landing, multiple-entry, and residential, indefinitely; previously issued visas, including residential permits, until further notice. Foreign nationals with diplomatic, official, and service passports are exempt from the controls. Diplomatic personnel permitted to enter Sri Lanka must submit a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result taken within 72 hours of departure, or undergo a PCR test upon arrival. Foreigners who are already in Sri Lanka may apply to extend the validity of their visas. Officials are indefinitely deferring earlier plans to allow entry to foreigners from Aug. 1, due to new local COVID-19 cases. SriLankan Airlines announced limited resumption of flights from Sept. 6 to airports serving multiple cities, including London, Tokyo and Melbourne. Inbound passengers are allowed to transit through Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) as long as they have a connecting flight leaving within 12 hours of arrival.

CMB continues to serve cargo transport, emergency repatriation, passenger transit, and international departures. All international services at Jaffna International Airport (JAF), Sri Lanka's only other functional international airport, remain suspended. International passenger ships such as cruises and ferries are barred indefinitely, though port operations for goods transport can continue.

Background and Analysis
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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