Sri Lanka Delays Tourism Reopening Indefinitely

The move deals a further blow to local hotels and businesses already crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.­­­

Inside the UNESCO-protected Dambulla Cave Temple. (Photo: Agnieszka Kowalczyk/Unsplash)

If you can’t wait to visit Sri Lanka in the next few months, it may be wise to hold off on those plans given the uncertainty of the current global situation. The island nation’s government recently postponed its plans to start welcoming foreign tourists this month after health authorities detected a cluster of nearly 600 coronavirus cases at a drug rehabilitation center in Polonnaruwa District, whose namesake town is a popular draw for its UNESCO-listed ancient ruins.

Tourism and aviation minister Prasanna Ranatunga told local reporters that there was no timeline for when Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport would accept visitor arrivals once more. “We cannot give an exact date for the reopening of the airport,” he said. “The top priority of the government is to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to repatriate Sri Lankans still stranded in various parts of the world.”

This follows an announcement made at the end of June, when Ranatunga said the airport’s reopening date would be pushed back to August 15 or potentially the last week of August. He cited the high demand for repatriation flights, with as many as 50,000 Sri Lankan nationals working abroad already registered at embassies to return home.

When Sri Lanka’s borders eventually reopen to international visitors, additional paperwork will be required during the visa application process, and tourists must stay no less than five nights in the country. Incoming travelers will be required to present a negative result from a PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure, while further testing should be expected on arrival at the airport. A mobile health unit will then show up at visitors’ chosen accommodation for another round of testing four or five days into the trip, and anyone who chooses to stay more than 10 days in Sri Lanka will also need to undergo a third PCR test.

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