With the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus(COVID-19) cases, the impact of the virus on daily human lives has also been severe. While it is disrupting businesses of all sectors in the regional and global economic scenario, one of the worst affected sectors is the travel industry. In these times of misinformation and uncertainty, the biggest issue faced by travellers is the question of travel and the places that are safe to travel to. Based on facts shared and constantly updated by official sources and government bodies, here is an understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka.
Coronavirus in Sri Lanka
As of 4th April 2020, the total number of confirmed cases in Sri Lanka stand at 176. While the number may seem relatively small as compared to other Asian countries, several others may still be at risk from coronavirus infections. In order to contain the coronavirus spread in the country, the Sri Lankan government declared 16th March 2020 as a national public holiday. The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) had requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to further extend the public holiday for 1 week and closed all ports of entry to the country (Source: Wikipedia)
Travelling to Sri Lanka right now
The Sri Lankan government has banned the arrival of travellers from several countries of Europe including Spain, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, France, Austria, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The travel ban was also imposed on foreign travellers from South Korea, Iran and India. Amid coronavirus fears, Sri Lankan airlines have cancelled scheduled flights from several countries including India. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Indian government had initially suspended all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas until April 15 in an effort to self-quarantine itself.
India had also extended its ban on arriving international passengers including Indian passport holders residing in the United Kingdom, Turkey and the whole of Europe till the end of March. (Source: WHO)
As India went on lock down from March 25, 2020, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Union Ministry stated that all foreigners stranded in India will be allowed to extend their e-visa.
Precautions to take while travelling
As per recommendations given by the World Health Organisation(WHO), it is necessary for travellers who are sick, to delay or avoid travel to affected areas. General personal hygiene precautions and keeping a distance of one metre from others showing symptoms remain important for travellers. Other recommendations include:
- Performing hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Covering your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of the tissue immediately;
- Refraining from touching mouth and nose;
- A medical mask is not required if exhibiting no symptoms, as there is no evidence that wearing a mask of any type protects healthy people. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear the same.
Travellers returning from affected countries are advised to self-monitor for 14 days and follow local health protocols. (Source: WHO)
As local governments are issuing regular travel advisories based on the changing scenario, experts around the world have been asking travellers to monitor these closely to decide upon their future travel. With the after-effects of this pandemic expected to last for another few months at least, there is an obvious hesitation among travellers globally for planning future trips. However, many providers are trying to address these concerns by providing temporary relief on change or cancellation penalties. While the impending question of travel in the near future remains unanswered, while planning any trip, it is important to consider your own risk factors and the quality of healthcare available in the region in case of an emergency.
‘Curated by Neha Bhise’