On Saturday, April 4, the Sri Lankan government announced that all international airports will be closed indefinitely for incoming passenger flights due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The restriction was originally enacted on Wednesday, March 18, and was due to expire on Tuesday, April 7. Only departing flights with passengers originating from Colombo will be allowed to operate under the restriction; emergency diversions, technical landings, and freighter operations will also be allowed. Authorities have also banned cruise ship passengers from disembarking in Sri Lanka from Tuesday, March 3, until further notice.
Sri Lanka's national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, announced on Wednesday, April 1, that it will suspend all flights from Wednesday, April 8, through Tuesday, April 21. The airline may continue to operate some repatriation flights at the government's request.
A nationwide curfew remains in place as of April 4 until further notice in the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam, Kalutara, Kandy, and Jaffna, which the government has designated as "High Risk Zones". Individuals in these areas are prohibited from leaving their homes except for essential needs. In all other districts, the curfew will be lifted at 06:00 (local time) on Monday, April 6, and re-imposed at 14:00 on the same day. Travel between the districts is strictly prohibited during this period except for individuals providing essential services.
As of April 4, there have been 162 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, including five associated fatalities. Further international spread of the disease is expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.