ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka police have temporarily discontinued a colour-coded sticker pass for vehicles entering Colombo during the ongoing COVID-19 curfew-style travel restrictions as the number of stickers issued matches the number of vehicles entering the city every day.
Police spokesman Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Ajith Rohana said the same vehicle was being searched more than once.
“Someone told me he was searched 20 times on his way from Kegalle to Colombo. If each stop causes a delay of five minutes, he would be 100 minutes late for his appointment,” he said.
Police introduced the one-day pass sticker to prevent this, he added.
The day pass was replaced with a new, more permanent colour-coded sticker valid from June 07 for the duration of the lockdown.
According to Rohana, 78,000 stickers were issued to vehicles entering Colombo on June 07, which he said roughly equalled the number of vehicles that day.
“We noticed that the same number of vehicles (about 78,000) enter the city every day for essential services on average. Another 10,000 vehicles also enter the city daily that we check without causing too many delays since 99% of them belong to essential services. In order to facilitate these vehicles, the sticker has been temporarily discontinued,” he said.
Rohana said the public has largely responded well to the unofficial lockdown.
“On the whole, people’s behaviour has been satisfactory,” he said.
Over 95% of the population have followed quarantine regulations, he said, though unfortunately there has been no decrease in the number of parties and private events held during the lockdown.
“Yesterday, nine people including two foreigners were arrested at Crescat Residencies in Colombo 03 for organising a pool party,” he said
Only a handful of these parties have caught the police eye, said Rohana.
“We don’t know how many parties are held in a day around the country without getting caught,” he said.
Despite the positive response to the restrictions overall, said Rohana, daily COVID-19 cases have not seen a significant drop.
“We have to pay close attention over the next two days to see if people have followed the regulations well or if the behaviour of 5% has put all others at risk,” he said.
Police has also found out that people engaged in essential services are distributing food to their relatives on their way to work, visiting friends having parties on the days they are not called in to work and going about finding places to buy food items from.
Rohana claimed people not engaged in essential services are also driving their vehicles to various destinations not related to work lying about weddings or visiting a patient in a hospital.
“Arrests have been made for transporting illicit liquor and drugs and transporting turmeric outside the western province violating travel restrictions,” he said.
Seven deaths have also occurred in traffic accidents on some days of the lockdown, which is close to the daily death toll of 8 or 9 when the country is open.
Most of these deaths were motorcyclists who had been speeding on traffic-free roads, he said.
Most arrests over violating quarantine regulations are from Matale, Nikaweratiya and Kandy areas where a number of the country’s main arteries such as the Jaffna-Kandy A9 road intersect.
“There is a large network of roads in those areas and the population density is also high. A higher number of police officers deployed results in a higher number of arrests,” said Rohana. (Colombo/June10/2021)