Sri Lanka closes borders as Covid-19 cases soar

Colombo, May 21 (EFE).- Sri Lanka will shut down its borders for all arrivals from Friday night as the deadly third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic raged on across the country.

The ban will last for 10 days and won’t affect outbound travel from Sri Lanka, Civil Aviation Authority CEO Themiya Abeyawickrama told EFE.

The travel ban comes four months after the country opened its borders for foreign tourists following a 10-month closure.

The government also imposed internal travel restrictions in a bid to control the deadly outbreak of the virus as neighboring India battles a devastating surge of Covid-19 infections and fatalities.

Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed that they have detected the first cases of the more virulent and rapidly spreading virus variant that was first found among Indian patients.

“The new strain is spreading fast and deaths have increased,” Sudarshini Fernandopulle, the minister overseeing the fight against the epidemic, said.

The island nation has registered record daily number of infections in the past few days, with the figures crossing the 3,000-mark on Thursday.

Home to about 22 million people, the island has so far registered 154,786 Covid-19 infections and more than 1,051 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University,

The country heavily relies on China’s Sinopharm for its mass inoculation drive to keep the infections at bay.

China has agreed to donate 500,000 doses of Sinopharm to help Sri Lanka accelerate its immunization program, increasing to 1.1 million the number of donated jabs to the island.

The Chinese embassy in Colombo promised that the fresh consignment will be shipped Tuesday.

The health authorities have fully or partially vaccinated some 1.3 million of the country’s total population so far.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Navy has increased border patrol amid fears of Indian citizens trying to illegally migrate to the island to escape the health crisis.

“We fear that people in India with connections in Sri Lanka will attempt to cross over by sea,” Sri Lanka Navy spokesperson Captain Indika De Silva told EFE.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry that accounts for one of the largest foreign income generators in the country is likely to suffer a major blow with the new travel restrictions.

The industry suffered its first major setback in 2019 after the Easter Sunday attacks.

In 2018, the country earned $4.38 billion from tourism.

The revenue dropped to $3.61 billion in 2019 after the bombings. Only 507,704 tourists visited the country last year amid the pandemic. EFE


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