Minister Prasanna Ranatunga confirms the reopening of Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for tourists from January 21 strictly adhering to health guidelines amidst current Covid-19 threats.
Participating in the cabinet decision briefing media conference held on 19th January at Government Information Department, Minister stated that Sri Lanka closed its airport on 19th March 2020 in order to control the spread of the pandemic and now steps have been taken to open the airport on January 21 following the Covid-19 guidelines and circulars of the health sector.
According to the minister, mainly the need to revive the tourism industry which is facing severe consequences after the coronavirus condition and the hardships endured by nearly 3 million people who are directly and indirectly dependent on the tourism industry have triggered the reopening of the airport.
Through a pilot project initiated on the last 26th of December, around 1500 Ukrainian tourists have come to Sri Lanka and Minister Ranatunga affirms that the coronavirus has not been transmitted to the general public by these Ukrainian tourists. He further confirms that necessary steps have been taken to rectify all the shortcomings and problems identified in the pilot project and to bring tourists to the island in accordance with the health guidelines.
Furthermore, only the foreigners who have tourist visas, dual citizenship, or residence visas can enter the country.
Following the health procedures, tourists should be tested with a PCR test 72 hours before their arrival and only the ones who are not infected are allowed to enter the country. Moreover, all the tourists arriving in Sri Lanka will go through another PCR test before entering the hotels. They will have to stay at their respective hotels until the results are available. In 5-7 days, these tourists will undergo another PCR test, and only after that, they will be able to travel as a tourist bubble through 14 identified tourist zones.
Minister further emphasized, the hotels that provide accommodation to these tourists are reserved only for them and the names of these hotels are published on the ministry’s official website. In addition, employees of these hotels that are accommodating the tourists are also not allowed to interact with the general public.
The efforts taken by the Sri Lankan government to reopen the airport for tourists amid the Covid-19 pandemic have been appreciated by the people who are engaged in the tourism industry.