Sri Lanka postpones April parliamentary elections over coronavirus

Colombo, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka scheduled for 25 April have been postponed due to the growing number of coronavirus infections in the country, the electoral commission said on Thursday.

Sri Lanka has registered 59 cases of the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 9,270 people out of over 225,250 infections worldwide.

The president of Sri Lanka’s National Elections Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya, told a press conference that the polls slated for the end of next month could not be held considering the deteriorating situation in the country.

According to the latest available figures, Sri Lanka has 59 confirmed COVID-19 infections. The first case was detected at the end of January.

Deshapriya was unable to provide a new date for the parliamentary poll.

Authorities in Sri Lanka declared one week of compulsory remote work for public sector workers, with private sector employees being ordered to stay home starting Friday, as the country bids to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew on three districts, Negombo, Puttalam and Chilaw, considered to be high risk. The restrictions began at 2 pm on Thursday and will remain in place for as long as is required.

Health officials say that those three districts are where the majority of the people who had brought the virus onto the island when they returned from Italy and South Korea.

The elections were only announced at the start of the month, after Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ordered the dissolution of Parliament, six months before the term was due to end.

Sri Lanka had already shut its airports to commercial passengers from any foreign country, delivering a heavy blow to the tourism sector which is crucial to the country that is still recovering from Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019.

The attacks, carried out by Islamist militants on churches and luxury hotels, left 269 people dead, including several foreign tourists.

Sri Lanka moved to delay the elections just days after French authorities chose to go ahead with the first round of municipal elections.

Prime minister Edouard Philippe has recommended that the second round, originally slated for Sunday, be delayed until June.

The run-up to the presidential elections in the United States have also been affected by the coronavirus crisis, with campaign rallies by Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders being cancelled and some states postponing their primaries. EFE-EPA


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