89 Sri Lankans in the Middle East have died of COVID-19: Labour Minister

Migrant workers in Kuwait, April 2020

ECONOMYNEXT – Eighty-nine Sri Lankan migrant workers have died in the Middle East due to COVID-19, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva told parliament today.

By December 30, he said, 3,923 Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East had been infected by COVID-19. Of these, 3,823 had recovered.

A total of 31,102 migrant workers have returned from the Middle East so far, he added.

According to the minister, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry has spent over Rs 82 million to provide reliefs to those in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Secretary to the Foreign Ministry (Ret) Admiral Prof Jayanath Colombage said earlier this week that Sri Lanka will continue the repatriation of Sri Lankans abroad at a slow pace due to limited capacity at the country’s quarantine facilities.

He told the privately owned Ada Derana TV that the government cannot deploy flights for the repatriation process daily due to this reason.

“Sometimes we deploy one flight every two or three days to bring back the Sri Lankans at government expenses,” he said.

When there is a huge number of COVID cases in the country such as in the Minuwangoda Peliyagoda and prison clusters, Colombage said, the quarantine facilities are tested. “So in such instances, we have to slow down the repartition process,” he said.

Colombage added that the authorities had managed to bring at least 50 Sri Lankans at a time via cargo flights operated by Emirates and Etihad. These returnees were asked to cover their own expenses by being quarantined at hotels. (Colombo/Jan08/2020)

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