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Thursday September 29th, 2022

Sri Lanka resumes public transport; health officials concerned over lax attitude re: COVID-19

RE-DEPLOYMENT: Transport Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has suggested that ‘semi-luxury’ buses with dustry drapes be used for office transport on expressways.

ECONOMYNEXT – Public transport services between Sri Lanka’s provinces resumed normal operations on Sunday (31) as authorities lifted a nearly six-months-long inter-province COVID-19 travel ban, though public health officials warned of increasing daily COVID-19 cases.

With the ban now lifted, public transport services can operate under strict health guidelines, a transport official said.

“We have around 5,500 buses, of which around 5,000 will operate from November 01,” Sri Lanka Transportation Board (SLTB) Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka told reporters on Sunday (31).

“The Minister has also advised to start city bus services as well.”

State Minister of Transportation Services Dimuth Amunugama told reporters on Sunday that buses will be permitted to operate according to their seating capacity. Any bus drivers that violate this condition will be arrested, he said.

“All buses must strictly adhere to the health guidelines,” Amunugama said.

“They may only transport passengers according to seating capacity. If this is disregarded, there is a high chance the health sector will again impose restrictions on transportation services.”

Sri Lanka Railways (SLR), meanwhile, said there will be 152 daily train trips from November 01.  Officials have asked the general public to use the service without creating a rush.

“Around 60 trains will be operating on Monday (01),” SLR General Manager Dhammika Jayasunadara told reporters on Sunday.

The relaxation of travel restrictions come amid reports of health officials expressing frustration over an apparent disregard by the public for health guidelines.

“Relaxing the restrictions doesn’t mean people can go on trips and disregard guidelines,” Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Chairman Upul Rohana told reporters.

“If we do not follow the health guidelines strictly, we will again face a disastrous situation in the near future. Already there are some signs of an increase in patients in several areas.”

Sri Lanka detected 542 patients on October 31, bringing the total number of cases to 541,073.

Director General of Health Services Dr Asela Gunawardena said a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be administered starting Monday (01), starting with frontline health workers, tri forces and police personnel, airport workers, port workers and people in the tourism industry.  The booster will be then given to the over-60 population, followed by people with medical conditions in between the ages 30 and 60, and finally everyone above 20.

Related: Sri Lanka to begin third Covid vaccine for frontline workers in health, border, tourism

(Colombo/Nov01/2021)

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