Sri Lanka has closed its airports and borders for all inbound international passengers for 10 days starting Friday (21 May) at midnight, according to the country’s Civil Aviation Authority. The decision was announced after the island nation reported a record single-day high of 3,051 COVID-19 cases. The country’s main carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, posted a notice on its website saying, “All online and offline carriers at all international Airports in Sri Lanka will not permit disembarking passengers into Sri Lanka with effect from 2359hrs on 21st May 2021 (local time in Sri Lanka) until 2359hrs on 31st May 2021 (local time in Sri Lanka) with a view to control the COVID-19 situation in the country. During the above mentioned restricted period the following will be permitted:
- Aircraft Departures with passengers originating from BIA/MRIA.
- Aircraft Emergency Diversions to BIA/MRIA.
- Freighter Operations and humanitarian flights to BIA/MRIA.
- Technical landings at BIA/MRIA.
- Inbound ferry flights (without passengers) at BIA/MRIA.
- Passengers transiting at BIA/HRIA for less than 12 hours with a confirmed ticket destined to an onward destination.
The move comes about a month after Sri Lanka and India called off a so-called ‘travel bubble’ following the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases in India. India accounts for one of the highest sources of tourists in Sri Lanka. Following the virus outbreak in March last year, Sri Lanka closed its borders and reopened it only in December 2020, stipulating protocols for on-arrival testing, quarantine and travel within the country. Witnessing a gradual increase in the last four months, Sri Lanka recorded 4,581 tourists from select countries in March 2021. Just before the pandemic hit, Sri Lanka received 2,28,434 tourists in January 2020 and the highest percentage of arrivals was from India, at 18 percent.