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Monday December 11th, 2023

Sri Lanka’s main int’l airport apologises for rapid PCR rush seen in viral video

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA)  has issued an apology an d a clarification on a video that circulated on social media last week of a commotion at the airport’s rapid PCR test counters.

The video showed a frustrated crowd gathered at the facility, with no social distancing between them, shouting over each other.

Shehan Sumanasekara, Director Operations Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext on Tuesday (02) that the incident had occurred last Saturday (30). Passengers bound to the UAE had experienced a “period of uneasiness” as per the video, he said.

“As a responsible government institution, I would like to apologise to the passengers who went through such an ordeal, on behalf of the airport and the laboratory operator.”

In August, the BIA installed a rapid PCR laboratory on request of the UAE government when the middle eastern country made it mandatory for all passengers arriving from high-risk countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to produce a “RAPID PCR” (different to RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests) taken four hours prior to departure.

The facility is said to be the only “rapid PCR” center in Sri Lanka and is run by Asiri Hospitals PLC.

Explaining the incident, Sumanasekara said: “There was a sudden influx of passengers flying to Dubai because of the Dubai Expo. What happened was at this particular time, there were about 700 to 800 passengers at the rapid PCR facility. “However, not a single passenger was delayed due to this.”

He added that the BIA in general has a capacity crunch, as a result of which the space allocated to this operation is also limited.

“Because of that when a lot of passengers flock together at a place, it creates some constrains. This is what happened.”

The Rapid PCR facility at the airport can handle around 350 persons per hour with the test report expected to be generated within three to four hours before the passengers departs.

“Although the report is to be given between three to four hours, a sample must be taken,” he added.

The airport has identified that the main barrier was created at the facility’s cashier counter as they have taken time to process 700 odd passengers at a given time.

As of now, the airport has expanded the cashiers and added areas for passengers to wait and collect their reports. (Colombo/Nov02/2021)

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Sri Lanka rupee opens at 327.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 327.00/50 to the US dollar on Monday, from 327.00/30 Friday, dealers said.

On the Colombo Stock Exchange, both indices opened up: The All Share Price Index 0.28 percent at 10,823, and the S&P SL20 0.35 percent at 3,113.85.

Bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.05/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 was quoted at 14.05/20 percent from 14.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 was quoted at 14.20/50 percent from 14.20/35 percent.

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Sri Lanka promoting Buddhist tourism from Vietnam, ASEAN

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to boost Buddhist tourism by linking temples in the country with those in East Asia, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said after to welcoming a delegation of monks from Vietnam.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Minister Sabry have initiated a temple-to-temple program where 100 Sri Lanka temples will be linked with counterparts in the Association of South East Asian Nations region.

“Tourism development will get a lot of growth with the temple-to-temple program,” Minister Ali Sabry said.

Along with the delegation of monks, five travel agents from Vietnam were also invited.

Under the first phase of the Temple-to-temple programs, several monks from Sri Lanka had received invitations from Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam the Foreign Ministry said.

The Temple-to-Temple diplomacy program will be extended to Singapore, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia during the second phrase of the program.

Sri Lanka is targeting 2.3 million tourists in 2023, after getting about 1.5 million this year. (Colombo/Dec10/2023)

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ADB $200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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