Colombo, Oct 15 (efe-epa).- The Sri Lankan government Thursday approved a new law that stipulates six months in jail and a fine of $55 for violating Covid-19 health protocols as the island struggles to combat a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi signed the law that prescribes punishment against those who do not maintain social distance, wear a mask or follow other key health protocols, the ministry spokesperson Viraj Abeysinghe said in a statement.
The government put in place the new measures as part of its efforts to stop the coronavirus spread in the country.
According to the new rules, if a person violated the Covid-19 protocols, they would be fined not less than Rs 10,000 (approximately $55) and jailed for six months, or given either of the punishments.
“The new law will be in place from tomorrow (Friday),” Abeysinghe told EFE.
“We took this step because people started violating basic Covid-19 preventive measures during the last few days,” he said.
The government also ordered the closure of all cinema halls till the end of this month, days after the authorities shut bars, restaurants, spas, casinos, nightclubs, and schools across the island to contain the virus outbreak.
Establishments such as bars and restaurants were later allowed to open but under strict health regulations.
The authorities have put some areas under an indefinite curfew after the new cluster of Covid-19 patients was detected early this month.
Authorities traced the new cluster to a garment factory named Brandix in Minuwangoda of the western provincial Gampaha district, where the number of new patients has climbed to over 1,700, which is the largest reported so far from a single hotspot on the island since the virus outbreak earlier this year.
The apparel maker had allegedly violated the health protocols and made its employees with Covid-19-like symptoms work.
The country’s garment industry is among key foreign revenue generators, making over $5 billion annually.
However, Brandix has refuted the allegations, and Fabric and Apparel Accessory Manufacturers’ Association (FAAMA) in the country issued a statement backing their claim.
The statement said the Brandix conducted tests for the entire workforce and their immediate families after an employee from a facility in Minuwangoda tested positive on Oct 4.
“Unfortunately, despite these efforts, there was a significant rise in Covid-19 positive cases in Sri Lanka,” FAAMA’s President Pubudu De Silva said in the statement.
According to government figures, the country has so far recorded 5,219 Covid-19 patients since March this year. The virus has claimed 13 lives in the country.
Sri Lanka also closed all airports for international tourists in March. EFE-EPA