Summary
As of Oct. 17, Sri Lankan authorities are imposing indefinite curfews across high-risk areas with new local cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Affected areas include parts of Gampaha and Kegalle districts. All nonessential businesses 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 their homes in other districts. Public transport, especially interdistrict trains and long-distance buses, will be suspended in curfew areas. 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, bars, restaurants, casinos, nightclubs, and spas are closed. Schools must remain closed except for examinations. All public gatherings are banned.

Other nationwide measures continue. The usage of facemasks in public remains mandatory. Authorities are allowing public and private transport to operate in non-curfew areas. Some facilities, such as places of worship, parks, and cinema halls, can reopen, albeit with social distancing measures. Authorities allow 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. 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.

Travel Restrictions
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, 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 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.

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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