Govt to open borders for commercial flights | Sunday Observer
Flights in pilot project end on January 19

Govt to open borders for commercial flights

3 January, 2021

The Government hopes to re-open borders for inbound tourism later this month after considering the results of an ongoing pilot project, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said. A pilot project was launched early this week to resume the tourism industry that came to an abrupt halt in late March last year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The last charter flight of this project is due to arrive in the country on January 19 or the following day.

“Once the charter flights are completed, we will meet all stakeholders including the health and aviation authorities to discuss the progress, identify shortcomings and see how we should regulate them,” the Minister said.

According to the Minister, this discussion is expected to last between two and three days. “If we get the clearance from the health authorities, we will be able to re-open the airports for commercial flights even before January 23,” he added.

On arrival, tourists will undergo a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and if the results are negative, they will be sent to a Stage 1 hotel where they will stay for seven days.

Local visitors are not permitted in Stage 1 hotels. This was decided on by the authorities to avert the possible spread of the virus from the visitors to locals.

“The second PCR test is done from seven to 14 days of their stay. During this time the tourists can travel to designated places in a bubble (group) and stay in a Stage 1 hotel. After the completion of 14 days the tourists could travel to any place and even stay in a hotel of their choice,” Minister Ranatunga added.

The Ministry has also scrapped the mandatory KPMG certification for the accommodation sector. The certification was formally made mandatory to ensure that the tourism sector followed all health precautions before accepting tourists. However, the decision was criticised by some industry stakeholders who claimed that the process was slow.

Instead, they can either have the KPMG certification or approval from the Ministry of Health to accommodate guests when tourism recommences.