Sri Lanka has decided to delay the re-opening of its airport until early September to foreigners after a new Coronavirus cluster developed around a rehabilitation centre for drug users and staff who were on leave.
This marks the second postponement of the reopening of the country’s main international airport, after authorities announced last month that its initial August 1 reopening would be pushed to mid-August to focus on the repatriation of the tens of thousands of Sri Lankans stranded abroad.
Government sources said that following discussions with the President’s Office and Health Officials, it has been decided to keep the airport closed for all incoming passengers till at least early September till such time the Kandakadu cluster is completely under control and the thousands who are presently under quarantine return back home.
“We have not decided on a specific date as to when we will open the airport because of the present situation but it will be somewhere in September. The President’s Office has decided to postpone the re-opening of the BIA because more people may be taken into the quarantine centers in the coming weeks. Therefore they are keeping the centres open for people in Sri Lanka rather than those who arrive from overseas. Once that part is done and completed and once the Health Ministry gives us the green light we will immediately recommence the repatriation program,” authoritative sources said.
Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services Retired Major General G. A. Chandrasiri said that the BIA was fully prepared to be re-opened for incoming passengers as all health measures had been put in place but confirmed the re-opening may be further delayed due to the existing COVID-19 situation in the country.
“We may have to wait for some time. As soon as the airport opens for repatriations we will allow tourists also to arrive here,” Chandrasiri said.
The government halted repatriations last Tuesday following the spread of the virus from the Kandakadu cluster and according to the Foreign Ministry, an estimated 40,000 people are awaiting repatriation.
The latest Covid-19 cluster which developed around a drug rehabilitation centre may have been connected to an earlier cluster linked to drug addicts, the head of Sri Lanka’s Health Service Anil Jasinghe said. Authorities have found more than 500 Coronavirus cases, related to the cluster.