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Thursday August 18th, 2022

Sri Lanka eyes post-Coronavirus tourism with tighter visa, health rules

FILE PHOTO – Tourists on the Southern coastline

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making plans draw tourists after a Coronavirus crisis, with a raft of new operating rules for hotels, transport and visa to cut changes of the virus being transmitted and protect workers and their families, a tourism official said.

“The visa process will be changed. When you turn up you will not be able to have visa,’ Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism told an online forum organized by Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank.

“Everyone will need to apply for visa two weeks before arrival and all will be requested to undergo a test which will be selected at the discretion of the Health Ministry.

“We will ask the tourists’ to book their accommodations. It has not been finalized yet but we are suggesting that all tourists adhere to this.”

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals had dropped 70.8 percent from a year earlier to 71,370 in March 2020, amid a Coronavirus crisis, with borders closed for arrivals from March 19.

Industry officials said it may take about a year to recover but they are already getting bookings for January.


Sri Lanka hotels brace for 12-month slump on Covid-19 hit

Digital Track

An app is being developed to track and provide situational information on Sri Lanka’s Covid-19sitution to tourists.

This app would be available for download at the Sri Lanka tourism official website. Fernando said that the software would not be used to reference or market any hotel or service provider but to simply act as a mode of getting information..

“When tourists arrive in the airport we will know all the information about them, where they have traveled and so on and so forth,” Fernando said. “And then on arrival they will be subjected to enter the medical tests which will happen at our cost.”

“After this process, tourists who are tested healthy will proceed onto immigration where all normal procedures will take place and they will be given an app which when registered in gives all the information on Sri Lanka and all the certified hotels in regard to Covid-19.”

“We will also have certified transport too which we will look into and after that when they enter their hotels there will be a detailed protocol to be followed,” she said.

“There will be strict guidelines given to hotels on how housekeeping should be done while adhering to all Covid-19 preventive methods.

“If in any case we are not happy with the health status of a guest we will have army commanded 4star or 5star quarantine hotels which would charge whatever the dollar price you would charge and get them quarantined.”

Any tourist who tests negative to Coronavirus can develop the disease within the next 14 days.

Premium Quarantine

Until Vietnam closed borders to take the pressure off contact tracers in the current Coronavirus crisis, tourist who arrived in the country could choose between military run free quarantine centres or ‘premium’ private quarantine from budget to 5-star.

Around 270 hotels signed up for the scheme, though not all were approved at the time inbound arrivals were halted. At some hotels food was served by robot waiters.

Of the 268 Coronavirus cases discovered up to April 17 and treated about 160 were foreigners. Many have been released from hospital.

Meanwhile Fernando said hotel staff will be quarantined prior to returning to their villages in order to prevent any risks.

“A separate guideline for hotel staff is being drawn up, where we will specify whether there should be an approved doctor present and other processes like full quarantine process before the staff go back home,” she said.

“The last thing we need is a hotel staff returning to their villages and infecting the entire area,” she said.

Fernando said that the tourist board has looked at Singapore models on this regard.

Singapore however has some community transmission and had 9,125 cases so far and 11 deaths.

Vietnam, which had aggressive contact tracing and completely eradicated the disease during the Wave I influx from China in January and February. In the last five days zero new cases had been found and 216 are in hospital. None had died.

Vietnam’s neigbhour, Cambodia, is also contact tracing. (Colombo/Apr22/2020)

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Sri Lanka rupee, yields in govt securities slightly changed

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions weakened on Thursday (18) and yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly while in T-bill edged down in dull trade after the central bank kept key monetary policy rates steady, dealers said.

On Thursday, before the market opened, the central bank held its key policy rates steady at 15.50 percent, while data showed market interest rates are close to twice the rate of them while private credit and imports falling as a consequence.

The central bank is injecting 740 billion rupees of overnight money to banks at 15.50 percent, which were originally injected mostly after reserves were sold for imports (or debt repayments) to artificially keep down rates (sterilized interventions), effectively engaging in monetary financing of imports.

The injections (sterilizing outflows) prevent the credit system from adjusting to the outflows and encourage unsustainable credit without deposits, which is the core problem with soft-pegged central banks, triggering a high rate and an economic slowdown later.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.90/28.00 percent, slightly up from 27.75/90 percent on Wednesday.

The three-months bill closed at 28.30/29.25 percent, down from 29.25/30 percent on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions weakened by one cent to 360.97 rupees against the US dollar on Thursday from 360.96 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 367.97 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 18/2022)

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Japan grants medical equipment worth 500-mn yen to Sri Lanka govt hospital

ECONOMYNEXT –  The  Japanese government has granted medical equipment worth 500 million Japanese yen to the Sri Jayawardenepura government hospital to improve the hospital’s treatment facilities under Japan’s Non-Project Grant Aid Programme.

A statement by the Department of External Resources said the grant was given in response to a request by Sri Lanka’s government.

Under the 500 million Japanese yen (approximately 1,265 million rupees) grant assistance, angio-CT machine, other radiology equipment, ophthalmic instruments, surgical instrument sets (stainless steel with satin finish), 15 dental units with accessories, liver transplant instrument sets, and a cardiac catheterization laboratory will be provided, a statement said on Thursday August 18.

Sri Lanka due to its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history is currently facing shortages of essential medicine, non-essential and lifesaving medicines pressuring the health sector to only attend to emergency cases to preserve available limited medicine stocks.

On Thursday at the policy rate announcement media briefing by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the strict measures taken in the recent past, Sri Lanka is currently managing the limited forex income coming into the country to purchase essential goods such as fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka has received various grants from several countries including China and India which gave a 200 million US dollar credit line to purchase medicine from India.

In June, Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella said there is no shortage of vital medicines in the country and all medicines will be restocked by August 2022. However, shortages of medicine aer still being reported in various hospitals islandwide.

“This improvement at the hospital will facilitate the enhancement of the quality of the care provided especially to the patients with non-communicable diseases while enabling high quality medical professional training to medical undergraduates and postgraduates from the National School of Nursing at the aculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura,” the External Resources Department statement said.

“This project will eventually assist the development of human resources of the health sector in Sri Lanka,” it said. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)

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Sri Lanka immigration on the hunt for Scotswoman who documented protests

Kayleigh Fraser via @kayzfraser Instagram

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department is attempting to track down Kayleigh Fraser, the Scotswoman who documented the country’s anti government protests.

Fraser was ordered to leave the island on or before Monday August 15 after officials cancelled her visa. She and her lawyer had filed a writ petition against her deportation with the Supreme Court, which was dismissed on the grounds that she was not being deported deported, only had her visa cancelled.

“The learned State Council submits that the impugned document ‘X4’ is not a deportation order as claimed by the petitioner and she confirmed that no deportation order has been made up to date by the authorities against the petitioner,” a court document shared by Fraser said.

Immigration officials stated that the police and SSD were on the lookout for Fraser.

“Her visa was cancelled on August 15, so we are looking to put her in a detention camp until she can get a ticket to leave the country,” the official told EconomyNext, confirming that Fraser was not getting deported but that her visa was cancelled.

“Legally we cannot give her a grace period, but on a humanitarian basis, we can give her the time to get a ticket,” the official said.

Fraser had used her social media to share pictures and videos of the anti-government protests in front of the Presidential Secretariat, and has been vocal against state sanctioned violence against protestors.

“Given what I have witnessed here in Colombo – the chemical weapons attacks on protestors, the government instructing the military to beat and torture protestors, the arbitrary arrests and blackmailing of prominent faces from the protests, intimidation tactics and threats etc – I should not be surprised at what has happened today,” she said, speaking to the Daily Record, a Scottish tabloid.

There were no reports of chemical weapons being used against any protestors in Sri Lanka, and it is unclear whether Fraser was erroneously referring to tear gas which was used to disperse crowds.

Fraser also called out media channels who she claimed had attempted to misrepresent peaceful protests as violent.

“It became very clear to me early on that this was not being reported. There was no international coverage on what was happening, and the media here were very much trying to say that it was violent, but that is the absolute opposite of what I saw,” she said over social media.

“What I saw was a beautiful union [of people] coming together in absolute unity. It was a beautiful movement and I’ve never seen anything like that in my life and that kept me coming back.”

However, Sri Lanka’s authorities maintain that the arrests so far have been legal and that violence did occur on the part of some protestors, though activists and some civil society groups disagree. On May 09, after supporters of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors in Colombo, a wave of retaliatory mob-violence erupted across the country which saw the residences of some parliamentarians torched to the ground. One government MP was killed.

Authorities say many of the arrests so far have been of protestors who had violated court orders or had illegally occupied government buildings.

Fraser continues to post on her social media. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)


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