ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has imposed travel restrictions between provinces until May 30 in an effort to contain the rapidly spreading COVID-19 epidemic, the president’s office said in a statement.
The statement was not clear whether the restriction was effectively immediately. Meanwhile reports said inter-pronvicel buses would be halted from midnight tonight.
President’s media spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake, who was quoted in the statement, said it is President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s belief that adhering to health guidelines will result in a healthier nation.
Following discussions with all stakeholders, the president has decided to impose the travel restriction between provinces, among other measures to contain the spread of the virus, the statement said.
These measures include the continuation of an ongoing ban on parties and gatherings, limiting the number of customers allowed at business establishments and isolating areas that report a high incidence of infection.
Sri Lanka recorded 1,581 COVID-19 cases as at 6.15pm today. Daily cases have so far been released in two installments every evening since the recent surge, but no second statement was released by health authorities today. Some 17,000 cases have been reported in May alone so far.
Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva was quoted in media reports earlier this evening as saying no total lockdown would be imposed in the island.
The statement issued by the president’s office is reproduced in full below.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pays close and constant attention to the current situation in the country that has arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to present to you the outcome of his discussions with all relevant parties to protect the country and the people from this pandemic.
Sri Lanka received 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine free of charge and the government purchased another 500,000 vaccines. We received another consignment of 265,000 vaccine doses. Accordingly, Sri Lanka received a total of 1,265,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
Under the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, around 925,000 people were given the first jab of the vaccine. However, the recent developments in India obstructed in getting down vaccines required for the second dose.
The health authorities have pointed out that around 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are required to complete the second dose of the vaccination. The government is currently in discussions with various parties to obtain the required AstraZeneca vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka received a donation of 600,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which was not earlier approved by the World Health Organization.
However, as a result of a discussion President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held with the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) via 'Zoom' last Friday, the WHO on the same evening approved the emergency use of the "Sinopharm " vaccine.
Accordingly, the “Sinopharm” vaccination programme was commenced from the very next day of receiving approval and the government is making arrangements to vaccinate 25,000 people per day in the Western Province under the first phase.
Negotiations held with the Chinese authorities to obtain three million doses of Sinopharm vaccine have been successful and the government has made plans to commence the vaccination programmes in other provinces too as soon as the vaccines are received.
The government has decided to use Russia's Sputnik vaccine as well in the vaccination drive. Under the first phase of this, Sri Lanka received 15,000 doses of vaccines.
Since the vaccination method of Sputnik is slightly different from the methods used for other vaccines, our healthcare sector commenced the vaccination from the Gothatuwa area adopting the new methodology.
Under its second phase, 85,000 more Sputnik vaccines will be received soon.
The President is confident that Sri Lanka will be able to successfully manage the current situation through vaccination, similar to the successful results achieved in the United States, the United Kingdom and a number of European countries through vaccination. The President is also fully confident in Sri Lanka's robust healthcare system and the entire staff members of the healthcare sector.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has specially appreciated Sri Lanka's strong healthcare system in every discussion the President had with the WHO.
However, President Rajapaksa points out that even with all these measures, the commitment of the people to control the Covid-19 epidemic is vital.
The President is of the view that citizens focusing on social responsibilities and adhering to all safety measures and the advice given by the health sector to maintain social distancing and avoid unnecessary gatherings will lead to a healthier nation.
As a result of the discussions the President held with all stakeholders to put an end to the covid-19 epidemic, the President has instructed the relevant authorities to (until May 30);
-Impose travel restrictions between all provinces,
-Cancel all gatherings and functions,
-Limit the number of people who can enter and stay in commercial establishments, and
-Isolate the areas where infected people are found in higher numbers.
However, the President emphasised that proper procedures should be followed to ensure that the lives of the people are not disrupted and that the essential services of the country are maintained when imposing these restrictions.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is confident that the people of our country will act responsibly in line with the Government's programme.