Buddhist monks attend a special prayer ceremony for relief of Covid-19 at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy on March 18. Sri Lanka has launched a range of measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus. (Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP)
Sri Lanka’s government has imposed a police curfew in several areas and closed its international airport to inbound flights to control the spread of coronavirus.
A police curfew was imposed in Puttalam, Anamaduwa, Kalpitiya, Karuwalagaswewa, Mundalama, Nawagattegama, Pallama, Vanathavilluwa, Udappuwa, Saliyawewa, Norochcholai and Kochchikade police divisions on March 18.
Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake was closed to arriving passengers from March 19 for one week.
The Catholic Church has canceled Masses and other services including Sunday schools at all parishes after the spread of Covid-19.
All government schools and universities are closed until April 20, while March 16-19 was declared a public holiday.
Deputy inspector general of police Ajith Rohana said people who had arrived from virus-stricken Italy, South Korea and Iran have avoided quarantine in Sri Lanka. He requested the public to inform police if they know of any persons hiding in the country without quarantine.
Sudarshana Saparamadu, a government officer and Catholic Sunday school teacher in Negombo, said people are staying at home.
Saparamadu, 47, said people who arrived recently from Italy had been seen moving around. "Our neighbors informed the police to avoid risk to our children," said Saparamadu.
The first coronavirus case reported in Sri Lanka was a Chinese tourist who was hospitalized in January and fully recovered.
Marawila’s district judge has issued an injunction order preventing 65 persons who had returned from several countries including Italy from leaving their homes for 14 days.
Meanwhile, about 1,200 Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims have visited India in recent weeks. More than 300 have been detained at the Maha Bodhi Center in New Delhi. Sri Lanka’s government is sending a special aircraft to India to bring them home.
Buddhist monks are conducting week-long prayers to combat the growing threat of the deadly virus.
"We recite the Rathana Suthraya for a week, through which we hope that not only Sri Lanka but the entire world will be blessed in combating coronavirus," said one monk, Ven. Warakagoda Gnanarathana Thera.
The government has closed all nightclubs, betting centers and massage parlors in the country with immediate effect.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said in a sermon on March 15 that viruses such as Covid-19 are produced not in poor countries but in the laboratories of rich countries.
"Producing this kind of highly contagious coronavirus is a crime against humanity. There should be an international investigation into this experimentation of producing this virus," he said.
The National Action Center for Prevention of Covid-19 has decided to ban travel and group travel in Sri Lanka with immediate effect.
China has provided a concessionary loan of US$500 million to help Sri Lanka respond to the coronavirus.
According to March 19 data, 8,810 people had died from 218,824 confirmed Covid-19 cases around the world, with mainland China and Italy the worst affected. Sri Lanka has reported 51 infections but no deaths.