Sri Lanka plans to reopen its shores to foreign visitors in August after several months of an international travel ban due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Airports in Sri Lanka have been closed and visas and electronic travel authorizations (ETAs) have been suspended since April as the country, like many others, has closed itself off from the rest of the world.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 around the world fall and summer approaches, Sri Lanka has announced a plan to slowly lift travel restrictions.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Tourism in Sri Lanka?
The tourism industry in the country has struggled under the pandemic, with many jobs being lost and hotels remaining shut. By reopening the borders, the government hopes to give a boost to struggling businesses.
Tourism had already suffered a drop between 2018 and 2019, falling from 2.33 million visitors to just 1.91 million. The pandemic has almost certainly seen to it that 2020 will see a far lower number of international travelers.
The Plan to Reopen Sri Lanka to International Travel
Sri Lanka is set to start allowing international visitors to enter the country from August 1, 2020. While the local Sunday Times newspaper had published a story claiming the tourism sector would open in mid-June, Kimali Fernando, chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, denied this.
According to worldwide visa information, Sri Lanka will start issuing visas again and normal requirements will apply.
As well as the borders being open, popular locations for tourists, including the Yala National Park, Arugam Bay, Udawalawe National Park, Trincomalee, and certain beaches will also reopen in August.
Conditions for Entering Sri Lanka
The plan to reopen international borders comes with certain conditions as the country returns to normal little by little.
Who Will Be Able to Enter Sri Lanka?
Initially, only a limited number of small groups of travelers will be allowed into Sri Lanka at a time. Individuals traveling alone will not be permitted to enter the island country.
How Long Can You Stay in Sri Lanka Once COVID-19 Restrictions Are Lifted
Additionally, travelers must spend a minimum of 5 days in Sri Lanka. Those who plan to stay for less than this will not be granted permission to enter.
Post-COVID-19: Requirements to Visit Sri Lanka
All travelers entering the country will have to present a health certificate verifying that they do not have coronavirus. This certificate must be issued by a medical professional licensed by a government or reputed agency within 72 hours prior to boarding the flight to Sri Lanka.
Every visitor will also be tested on arrival at the Sri Lankan airport. Bandaranaike International Airport and Mattala International Airport will reportedly be partially open to receive international flights and will be equipped with coronavirus testing facilities.
Additional COVID-19 tests will be performed after 4 or 5 days. Foreign nationals who are staying for more than 10 days will have to undergo a third test.
Sri Lanka’s ministry of tourism defended these measures, saying:
“While this may be inconvenient it is essential to safeguard everybody and provide peace of mind.”
Additional dispositions for foreigners traveling to Sri Lanka in the summer of 2020
Travelers will only be able to stay at five-star hotels approved by the ministry of tourism while staying in the country. These premises will have strict safety measures to prevent contagion.
Foreign nationals visiting Sri Lanka will be prohibited from using public transport.
Sri Lanka visas will be issued as normal. Visitors should consult global visa information to check the visa requirements for their nationality.
Sri Lanka and Coronavirus
So far, Sri Lanka has had a relatively low number of cases of COVID-19. The first patient in the country was identified on January 27. As of June 17, there have been fewer than 2,000 cases reported since March and only 11 fatalities. The country has a population of around 21.5 million.
How Did Sri Lanka Fight COVID-19
Sri Lanka responded to the outbreak in March by closing international borders and suspending visas. It began large-scale testing of the population at the end of April, performing 930 tests per 1 million people.
It imposed a lockdown to minimize the number of people on the streets and keep the rate of transmission low.
The healthcare system has been widely praised around the world since the 1980s. It has a legacy of providing “good health at low cost”, according to the Rockefeller Foundation.
The country has also not been afraid to reimpose the lockdown after lifting it and seeing an increase in cases.
All of these factors have helped Sri Lanka contain the COVID-19 outbreak relatively well.
The new conditions for foreign visitors from August onwards are in keeping with the anti-coronavirus measures introduced so far and will likely help to keep the number of cases low or non-existent.
Travelers coming to Sri Lanka are asked to comply with the rules and regulations laid down by the government.