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Sri Lanka Coronavirus battle stepped up with partial airport shutdown

CORONA CONTROLS: A worker sprays disinfectant to sanitize a public bus as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus at a bus station in Colombo on March 16, 2020. Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka stepped up its battle against Coronavirus (COVID19) with a partial shut-down of its airport for two weeks and most businesses and state agencies closed to prevent people moving.

Arriving passenger will not be accepted from March 18 midnight until further notice, Director Operations Airport and Aviation Services, Director Shehan Sumanasekara said.

“Cargo flight will be accommodated as usual,” he said.

Transit and departures will be operated.

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The government has declared a three-day holiday asking all non-essential businesses not to operate on March 17, 18 and 19 while asking some key government services and private businesses in banking, food transport, and distribution to operate.

“Do not consider these Public Holidays (government agencies),’ Director of Government Information Nalaka Kaluwewa said in a statement.

“Except for health, food supply, transport, essential services, banks, District Secretary and other divisional secretary offices, the holiday would apply to all ministries, departments, corporations and state agencies.

“The government is asking the holiday to be given to the private sector as well. Monitoring the transmission of the COVID19 virus the government may or may not extend this holiday.”

On Monday Sri Lanka’s confirmed coronavirus patients jumped by 06 to 35 patients including the first Chinese tourists. There were 203 persons under investigations at 18 hospitals as of Monday.

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Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said a soldier working with quarantined passengers had also become ill after an altercation with Italian returnees at the airport who refused to be quarantined.

Sri Lanka’s stock market would be closed on Tuesday, a spokesman for the stock market regulator said.

Sri Lanka had closed schools, universities, museums, zoos in a bid to keep people at home and stop the spread of the virus. Court hearings and exams have been postponed. Church services have been closed until the end of the month.

“The idea is to prevent the gathering of people in one place,” Information Minister Bandula Gunewardene told reporters Monday.

“Many religious leaders are also asking people to engage in religious activities at home. The senior theros of Sripada (a popular seasonal pilgrimage location) is also asking the same.”

On Monday Sri Lanka added Qatar, Bahrain, and Canada to the list of countries from which travelers would not be allowed.

Qatari, Canadian or Bahraini nationalities or any passenger who has a travel history in the last 14 days will not be permitted to land in Sri Lanka from midnight March 17 for two weeks, Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Upali Dharmadasa said in a statement.

Carriers were also asked not to board anyone with a travel history in Iran, South Korea, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Denmark would for the last 14 days.

Infections confirmed so far have been among mostly from Sri Lankans returning from infected countries, who were either working or on holiday.

Sri Lanka also asked anyone who had arrived from Europe, Italy or Iran to register with police or risk punishment under the provisions of a Quarantine Ordinance as confirmed cases went up.

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The head of Sri Lanka’s health service Anil Jasinghe asked anyone experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus to go to one of the designated state hospitals and not to stay at home, or go to private hospitals.

People who go around without getting admitted would be prosecuted he said.

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Sri Lanka foreign ministry suspends consular services in Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said it was suspending regular consular services in Colombo.

Infections are spreading in new countries. Overnight a returnee from India’s Kerala region was confirmed with Coronavirus.

Sri Lanka has asked the public not to travel abroad or use the holiday to travel domestically and avoid all public gatherings.

Many countries are urging all returnees from abroad to go into 14-day self-quarantine.

Coronavirus hits older persons and those with a history of diabetes or chronic conditions, who develop a form of pneumonia, health officials have said while younger people get a fever and a cough for about a week. Children are hardly affected.

Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) asked the government to close borders, as the health service did not have ventilators in (to support intubated patients in intensive care units) to treat patients with pneumonia or severe complications.

British officials are advising older people to go into self-quarantine until the epidemic runs its course and the population develops immunity.

Several European countries have also asked all businesses to close except for those in food distribution and essential services.

Sri Lanka’s central bank said it was cutting rates and a reserve ratio releasing liquidity in the banking system from March 17, despite not having a free-floating exchange rate. On Friday the central bank injected 50 billion rupees.

Sri Lanka oppositions have called for upcoming elections in April to be halted.

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Another party said it was halting campaigning. (Colombo/Mar17/2020-sb)

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