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Sri Lanka bans visitors from India over Covid fears

Navy steps up security as the aviation authority refuses to let arrivals from India disembark

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: May 07, 2021 08:07 AM GMT

Updated: May 07, 2021 09:21 AM GMT

Sri Lanka bans visitors from India over Covid fears

Policemen arrest a man for not wearing a face mask in Colombo on May 7 as Sri Lanka cracks down on people violating health regulations as part of an attempt to control a surge in Covid-19 infections. (Photo: AFP)

Sri Lanka has banned all arrivals from India with immediate effect after a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Measures have been taken to arrest those who enter Sri Lanka illegally in fishing vessels. The Sri Lankan Navy has set up coastal observation centers at selected locations to strengthen security.

The Civil Aviation Authority has also taken measures. "Passengers from India will not be permitted to disembark in Sri Lanka with immediate effect," it said in a statement.

Sri Lanka had served as a transit hub for Indians visiting other destinations.

Countries including the UAE, the UK, Singapore, Australia as well as some South Asian countries have already banned arrivals from India.

Puttalam police arrested a woman and her two children who had entered Sri Lanka illegally with the help of a fishing vessel from Chennai, India, a few days earlier. They were found hiding in a house in Puttalam by police and health officials and have been placed in quarantine.

If some Indians start to travel to Sri Lanka by boat, it could become a very serious situation

Suresh Darman, a fisherman who works on a multi-day boat, said it is a one-hour journey from India to Sri Lanka.

"If some Indians start to travel to Sri Lanka by boat, it could become a very serious situation. As a percentage, the increase in Covid-19 infections in Sri Lanka is about 82 percent, while in India it is still only 11 percent," he said.

The Government Medical Officers' Association said the number of people with coronavirus infection being kept at home is on the rise due to hospitals having no more beds.

The director general of health services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena, said travel restrictions are already being imposed in areas where more cases are being reported.

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According to the Association of Public Health Inspectors, the percentage of coronavirus infections in Sri Lanka increased by 70 percent in the last week.

President Upul Rohana said the country should be locked down for health reasons to reduce the growth of cases by at least half.

Meanwhile, train services have also been suspended.

A Catholic priest from Colombo Archdiocese said all church services and Sunday schools have been suspended until further notice.

"The month of May in particular is dedicated to Mother Mary, directing our faithful to recite the rosary every evening," said the priest who asked to remain anonymous.

"Mother Mary intervened on our behalf during the Second World War and the civil war. We believe that she will intervene on our behalf and save the country."

According to the Epidemiology Department, nearly 2,000 new cases of coronavirus are being diagnosed every day, placing extra burdens on the health system.

The department said more than 17,000 people are hospitalized and the health system could not cope with another 2,000 people a day.

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