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Saturday October 23rd, 2021

Sri Lanka relaxes six-week COVID-19 “lockdown”, but some restrictions remain

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s six-week COVID-19 lockdown, or ‘quarantine curfew’ as it is officially known, was relaxed Friday (01) morning, though some restrictions such as an inter-provincial travel ban remain.

The health ministry issued new guidelines on Thursday (30) to be followed by the public in the coming weeks in order to prevent a fresh wave of daily cases which have seen a gradual decline over the past few weeks.

No non-essential travel or any type of public gathering is permitted from 10pm to 4am every day, until further notice.

The new guidelines have been divided into two periods: October 01 to 15 and October 16 to 30 (see images below for details).

Dining in at restaurants, and low and medium risks sports will be only permitted after October 16. Food delivery is allowed as it was during the lockdown, according to the guidelines.

Private tuition classes , cinemas, theatres, exhibitions and conventions remain closed until further notice.

Walkways and beaches will be open for public use, though public gatherings such as beach parties are not permitted.

Until October 15, weddings are allowed with a maximum of 10 participants. Fifty guests will be allowed from October 16 but without liquor being served.

The health ministry said any organiation or person that poses a threat to the control of COVID-19 by non-adherence to the guidelines will be strictly dealt with under the existing legal provisions.

The situation will be reviewed the end of the month and appropriate guidelines on the permitted level of functions will be issued.

“We have been informed to suspend inter-provincial public transport for another two weeks. Therefore no buses or trains will be operating between provinces,” State Minister for Transportation Dilum Amunugama told reporters on Thursday.

“Only private and Sri Lanka Transportation Board (SLTB) will operate inside each province. We have been advised by health officials to not to operate trains even inside the provinces to minimise the spreading.”

Amunugama said busses will only be allowed to transport passengers per the number of seats available any public transport driver that carries more passengers than the number of seats will be arrested.

“We will also increase the number of busses in areas where a higher number of people uses public transport to commute to work, such as in the Western province.”

“All workplaces should reduce the number of employees coming into work at a given time and where possible adopt a work from home routine. Essential services and industries are exempted and others should function with minimum required numbers, as decided by the head of the institute,” the ministry said.

There should be a sensitive monitoring system for public and work settings on their adherence to precautions, it added.

“If not all gains from restrictions imposed over a one-month period would be lost.”

Sri Lanka initially decided to go for a 10-day nationwide lockdown on August 20 after ignoring repeated calls from experts. With patients’ number continuing to increase, the lock down continued to be extended several times until October 01.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLM) has proposed a “restrained, phased, and well-monitored” exit strategy for the lockdown in order to avoid another wave of the epidemic. The SLMA issued a series of recommendations Wednesday afternoon on gradually reopening the country.

Related: Sri Lanka Medical Association proposes “restrained” easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Health authorities have also called for a staggered easing of the restrictions.

Related: Sri Lanka health official calls for staggered lifting of COVID-19 lockdown

Critics, however, have argued that Sri Lanka’s lockdown was not as stringent as it could’ve been, with widespread reports on social media of life almost being back to normal, at least for a section of society.

Regardless, daily cases of COVID-19 have seen a not insignificant drop, at the end of the quarantine curfew period. On Thursday (28), 912 new infections were reported, with 59 deaths confirmed for Wednesday.

This was the third consecutive day with few than 1,000 confirmed cases. (Colombo/Oct01/2021)


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