Tourist arrivals could be delayed by two weeks | Sunday Observer

Tourist arrivals could be delayed by two weeks

28 June, 2020

Reopening the country for tourists could be pushed back by up to two weeks as the Government’s priority is to repatriate over 46,000 Sri Lankans working abroad, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told the Sunday Observer.

The authorities had planned to restart the industry that faced a complete shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the reopening of international airports on August 1.

The decision to resume the tourism industry would depend on how soon Sri Lankans working abroad will be repatriated and their period of quarantine. At present, the number of returnees is about 600 a day, the Minister said.

“Over 46,000 Sri Lankans have registered with the Government and are waiting to return. We won’t permit tourists till we complete the process,” Minister Ranatunga said.

He said the decision was taken after considering the ICU bed capacity that is over 510 and the hospital occupancy for returnees who test positive for Covid-19. Most returnees from the Middle East have contracted the virus, he added.

Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner. In 2018, the country earned USD 4.38 billion from the industry and fell short of a revenue of USD 3.61 billion in 2019 due to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. “We wish to resume tourism as fast as possible. Considering the situation, it seems it would be delayed by another one or two weeks,” Minister Ranatunga said.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has made it mandatory for tourists to produce a negative PCR report taken within 72 hours before arriving in the country, and undergo a second PCR test at the airport.

The tourist should take a third test, in 5-7 days of arrival if he develops Covid-19 like symptoms. This will be followed by another PCR test if the tourist stays for over 10 days.