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Sri Lanka gives booster shots to front-line workers, seniors

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka on Saturday announced plans to offer booster shots to front-line workers followed by the elderly as the island nation gears up to further ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting Nov. 1, workers in the health, security, airport and tourism sectors will start receiving a third dose of vaccine, said Channa Jayasumana, the state minister of pharmaceutical production, supply and regulation.

The Pfizer booster shots will then include those above 60 years, he said.

So far, 59% of the 22 million population have been vaccinated, and the Health Ministry expects the rate to rise to 70% within three weeks.

A Sri Lankan school student receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Sri Lanka is vaccinating 18- and 19-year-olds against the coronavirus as it expands the shots to students. After beginning with older people, Sri Lanka has now vaccinated 57% of its 22 million population. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The booster rollout comes ahead of the government’s plans to lift monthslong travel restrictions between provinces on Nov. 1. The government has also announced that train service that has been halted for nearly two months would restart next week.

Sri Lanka lifted a six-week lockdown on Oct. 1 and since then, life has begun returning to normal with the reopening of cinemas, restaurants and wedding parties as COVID-19 daily cases fell to below 1,000 with less than 50 deaths.

However, a ban on public gatherings continues along with some restrictions on public transport.

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