As of Oct. 27, Sri Lankan authorities have added Borella, Fort, Pettah, and Welikada areas of Colombo District to curfew areas due to new local cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Other affected areas include Bloemendhal, Gothatuwa, Grandpass, Kotahena, Mattakkuliya, Modara, Mulleriyawa, and Wellampitiya areas of Colombo District, Gampaha District, as well as parts of Kalutara, Kegalle, and Kurunegala districts until further notice. All nonessential businesses except permitted industries must close; essential shops such as pharmacies and grocery shops may also face intermittent closures. Residents must stay home except for emergency and essential purposes. Authorities are barring entry and exit to the areas until further notice; those employed in the regions may not leave to their homes in non-curfew areas. Public transport, especially interdistrict trains, and long-distance buses, will be suspended in curfew areas. Vehicles may only transit through such areas; postal services are suspended in the Western Province, as well as Batticaloa, Galle, and Kuliyapitiya. Officials advise those living in or with travel history to curfew areas to monitor their health and undergo COVID-19 tests if symptoms occur. Similar restrictions are possible in other districts if COVID-19 activity rises.
Authorities have also tightened nationwide measures; most government offices, as well as leisure venues such as bars, restaurants, casinos, nightclubs, and spas, are closed. Public facilities, such as cinema halls and zoos that were allowed to open earlier with social distancing measures, are also closed until further notice. Schools may only operate for examinations. All public gatherings are banned. Officials have directed all private and public organizations to collect and update employee details to facilitate contact tracing if and when necessary.
Other nationwide measures continue. The usage of facemasks in public remains mandatory. Officials are allowing public and private transport to operate in non-curfew areas; however, limited public transport services are running due to low demand. Most government offices are closed; officials encourage private offices to telecommute, or ensure health precautions are in place if on-site work is required. Authorities may reintroduce or implement stricter measures, especially in designated high-risk areas, depending on in-country cases. Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in areas under curfew. Sporadic clashes are possible if any group defies official orders. Police are likely to act quickly to control such incidents.
Authorities suspended the arrival of international commercial passenger flights until further notice. Officials are also temporarily suspending inbound repatriation flights into the country until further notice; limited flights may restart depending on local caseload. Authorities have suspended the issuance of all visa types, including electronic, landing, multiple-entry, and residential, indefinitely; previously issued visas stand canceled. 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 foreigners to enter from Aug. 1 due to new local COVID-19 cases. SriLankan Airlines (UL) announced a 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. It is mandatory for all outbound passengers to take reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests within 72 hours before departure.
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.
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.