ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will be open up for fully vaccinated tourists from September 29 as it removes the last COVID-19 travel restriction, the on-arrival PCR test, subject to a negative result within 72 hours of departure, in a bid to boost the dollar-earning tourism sector amid a forex crisis.
Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella took to twitter to announce the decision, which will go in to effect from 0000hours September 29.
Starting midnight tonight, 29/09, all arrivals at @BIA_SriLanka will no longer be subject to on arrival #PCR tests provided that the test done within 72 hours of departure is negative. Arrivals should be #FullyVaccinated with the 2nd dose administered 2 weeks prior to arrival.
— Keheliya Rambukwella (@Keheliya_R) September 28, 2021
The Indian ocean island has removed a number of COVID-19 restrictions on travellers, despite an ongoing lockdown that is expected to be relaxed on October 01.
Fully vaccinated tourists are free to move across the country the way they did before the pandemic, but were required to undergo an on-arrival PCR test until September 28 that in turn necessitated a one-day quarantine until PCR tests reports were cleared.
Public parks and tourist site are also open on a pre-booking basis for tourists, while bars and restaurants are open and ready to serve the holiday makers.
However the country continues to report close to 1,000 new COVID-19 infection cases per day, out of which over 90 percent are confirmed to be caused by the Delta variant.
Meanwhile, 50.4 percent of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated by September 18, according to Health Ministry data. At least 60.8 percent or 14.18 million of the population have been jabbed with the first dose.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe previously told EconomyNext that health officials and industry representatives were in discussion to ease COVID-19 restrictions as the country has fully vaccinated at least 50-percent of the population.
Shehan Sumanasekara, Director-Chief Operations (all airport) at Airport & Aviation Services (Srilanka) told EconomyNext last week that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) sees close to 1,000 -1,500 arrivals and 1,700 to 2,000 departures per day.
Of these arrivals, some 300 are from India, while some are from Germany and Spain, according to Sumanasekara.
“Arrivals numbers change day to day but with the gradual ease of restrictions we expect it to increase in the near future,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s pre-pandemic tourism sector was one of three key-dollar earning sectors after apparel and foreign remittance.
In 2018, the sector generated 4.4 billion rupees in revenue and in 2019, after the Easter-Sunday attacks, earned 3.5billion US dollars.
Sri Lanka’s reserves dropped to 2 billion US dollars in July when it repaid a billion dollar bond and some other accounts.
Gross forex reserves were 2.6 months of imports measured as the average of past 12 months in June 2020.
The reserves are the lowest since July 2009, when the country had just finished a war and was rebuilding reserves, but in September it recovered slightly to 3.5 billion US dollars through International Monetary Fund (IMF) special drawing rights (SDR). (Colombo/Sep28/2021)