Travel advisories: The lifted, the relaxed, and the strict
By The Sunday Morning Business Desk
Following the Easter attacks which claimed the lives of around 40 tourists, 37 countries issued travel advisories on Sri Lanka, with varying levels of severity, significantly reducing the number of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka and paralysing the booming tourism industry.
However, since then, with the normalisation of the security situation, 14 of these travel advisories have been relaxed, with another being completely lifted.
The Sunday Morning Business compiled a list of all the travel advisories placed on Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the attack and their current statuses as at 14 June (Friday) according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sweden – lifted
On 29 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against travel to Sri Lanka. Sweden has recently lifted its travel advisory on Sri Lanka, becoming the first and so far only country to do so.
India – relaxed
Indian nationals intending to travel were advised on 27 April by the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka not to undertake non-essential travel. Those undertaking essential travel were advised to contact the Indian High Commission and the consulates.
On 28 May, the travel advisory was updated as follows on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs of India: “Security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew and restrictions on social media, and the opening of schools. Indian nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.”
United Kingdom – relaxed
On 26 April, The UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka. The travel advisory was updated as follows on 13 May on the website of the British High Commission in Sri Lanka:
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka, due to the current evolving security situation following attacks on 21 April 2019.”
On 6 June, this was updated to say that the UK no longer advises against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.
China – relaxed
On 22 April, Chinese citizens were advised not to travel to Sri Lanka by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China until the situation is restored to normalcy. China added that it would be difficult for the Embassy of China in Sri Lanka to provide effective assistance to Chinese nationals who insisted on travelling to Sri Lanka in spite of the travel warning.
On 15 May, the travel advisory on Sri Lanka had been updated as follows on the website of the Embassy.
“According to the current security situation, the security reminder is now adjusted to the level of cautious to travel. This was valid till 31 May 2019 for Chinese citizens who insisted on coming after the cautious travel reminder was issued. The expenses incurred due to the provision of consular protection and assistance will be borne by the individual.”
The Chinese citizens who stayed in Sri Lanka were advised to continue to be highly vigilant of the situation of the country and security.
However, on 1 June, the travel advisory was adjusted to the primary security level.
Germany – relaxed
On 28 May, the Federal Foreign Office of Germany updated its travel advisory on Sri Lanka from “unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka is still discouraged” to “despite the restoration of public order, travel to Sri Lanka will continue to be more cautious”, as reported by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Berlin.
Australia – relaxed
After the attack on 21 April, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia had amended the travel advisory to “Level 3 – reconsider your need to travel”.
On 28 April, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade offered voluntary departures from post to the dependents of its Australia-based High Commission staff in Colombo, due to school closures and restricted movements.
On 6 May, the High Commission encouraged all Australian travellers to monitor the travel advice for Sri Lanka as it continues to assess the risks for Australian travellers, but removed the “reconsider your need to travel” warning.
On 13 June, Australia had lowered the level of its travel advisory to “exercise a high degree of caution”.
Diplomatic sources indicated that Australia is likely to reduce the travel advisory further over the coming days.
France – relaxed (unconfirmed)
On 28 April, the French Foreign Ministry advised French travellers to postpone their non-essential trips to Sri Lanka until further notice. However, there are unconfirmed reports that France recently relaxed this travel advisory.
Italy – relaxed
On 29 April, Italian travellers were advised to avoid the areas directly involved in police operations and not to stop at meeting points, limiting movements to the extent possible and, in all circumstances, to comply with the instructions given by the local authorities, if any. All non-essential trips to Sri Lanka were not recommended.
Italy recently relaxed their travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Switzerland – relaxed
On 27 April, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland updated its travel advisory on Sri Lanka from “avoid non-essential travel to Sri Lanka” to “in Sri Lanka, travellers must be very vigilant about their personal safety”.
Switzerland recently relaxed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka. On 27 May, Switzerland relaxed its travel advisory to “risk of terrorist attacks”. This is still valid.
Netherlands – relaxed
On 26 April, Dutch nationals were advised to travel to Sri Lanka only if it was necessary. The Netherlands recently relaxed their travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Belgium – relaxed
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium had advised citizens to follow the local press and the security recommendations, saying that there is a possibility of communal tensions reviving following the attacks.
On 26 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium amended the travel advisory, stating: “Travel to Sri Lanka is discouraged for all non-essential trips.”
Belgium recently relaxed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Canada – relaxed
The Government of Canada updated the “safety and security” section on 22 April 2019 for Sri Lanka, noting that “explosions in Colombo and Batticaloa”, which was later replaced with “attacks in Sri Lanka”. It advised Canadian travellers to exercise a high degree of caution due to the security situation.
On 26 April, the consular assistance section was amended with a notice on the closure of the High Commission of Canada in Colombo due to the security situation.
On 28 April, the phrase “attacks in Sri Lanka” was replaced with “terrorism”.
The consular assistance section had also been updated.
On 13 May, the advisory was updated stating that sudden occurrences of civil unrest are possible and curfew and bans on social media could be imposed at any time.
Canada recently relaxed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
On 6 June, Canada lowered the level of its travel advisory to “exercise a high degree of caution” due to the security situation.
Norway – relaxed
On 29 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against non-essential travel, but recently relaxed their travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Denmark – relaxed
On 26 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark advised against any non-essential travel to Sri Lanka. Denmark recently relaxed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Malta – relaxed
On 22 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion of Malta advised their nationals against all travel to Sri Lanka. On 14 May, the travel advisory was updated as follows:
“Maltese travellers should remain vigilant, keep up to date with developments, and follow the advice of local security authorities and hotel security staff; keep a low profile, avoid crowded public places, large gatherings (including religious gatherings and places of worship), and any demonstrations.”
Malta recently relaxed its travel advisory on Sri Lanka.
Austria – intact
On 23 April, the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria had advised its citizens against unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka, stating that there is a “high security risk throughout the country”.
Bahrain – intact
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain had issued a release on 22 April 2019, advising all Bahraini citizens currently in Sri Lanka to exercise caution and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Czech Republic – intact
On 30 April, Czech citizens staying in Sri Lanka were advised to be extremely cautious and follow the instructions of the security forces. Those who had been intending to travel to Sri Lanka were instructed to postpone their travels.
Greece – intact
An announcement made by the Embassy of Greece in New Delhi, on 24 April, stated that Greek citizens were advised to regularly follow developments and instructions of the local authorities.
Hungary – intact
Sri Lanka was categorised into the group of countries with increased security risks on 30 April and the Hungarian Government said it was not recommended for Hungarian citizens to start their trips to Sri Lanka.
Indonesia – intact
On 30 April, Indonesian nationals already in Sri Lanka, especially in the affected cities, were advised to be vigilant, always monitor the development of the security situation, and avoid crowded places. They were asked to abide by applicable laws, follow instructions/appeals from local security forces, and contact the Indonesian Embassy if they encounter any problems.
Israel – intact
On 25 April, Counter Terrorism Bureau of the National Security Council of Israel issued a travel advisory on Sri Lanka and warned of a “high and concrete” chance of a terror attack in Sri Lanka. The Israeli Government advised its citizens staying in Sri Lanka to leave the country quickly. This was done since the reports received from Israel intelligence stated that the situation in Sri Lanka was not favourable.
Japan – intact
On 26 April, the danger level was raised from Level 1 (take due precautions) to Level 2 (avoid non-essential and non-urgent travel).
Korea – intact
On 23 April, the travel status on Sri Lanka was raised from Level 1 (take caution when travelling) to Level 2 (refrain from travelling to the country). Koreans already residing in Sri Lanka were advised to take special care of their safety, and those intending to travel were advised to reconsider the need to travel.
Lithuania – intact
On 24 April, it was recommended to temporarily refrain from unnecessary trips to Sri Lanka.
New Zealand – intact
On 26 April, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reviewed the factual update to reflect more accurate information and included a section on terrorism and advised against non-essential travel.
Oman – intact
On 23 April, the Oman Embassy in Colombo reminded people to take care and stay indoors as much as possible to maintain their safety, via a Twitter message.
Poland – intact
Polish citizens were advised against unnecessary travel. Those staying in Sri Lanka were advised to be cautious and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Saudi Arabia – intact
On 30 April, Saudi nationals in Sri Lanka were advised to leave due to security reasons.
Singapore – intact
On 26 April, Singaporeans were advised to defer all non-essential travel to Sri Lanka and exercise vigilance and take all necessary precautions for personal safety.
Slovakia – intact
On 30 April, “Security Level 2 – reconsider the necessity of travelling” was placed.
Slovenia – intact
On 2 May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia advised against any journeys to Sri Lanka.
Thailand – intact
The Thai Embassy in Colombo had posted two notices on 21 and 26 April on their website with safety measures to be taken by Thai travellers.
United Arab Emirates – intact
On 22 April, travellers were advised to postpone travel to Sri Lanka at present due to the current situation. The citizens of their country already in Sri Lanka were advised to leave and communicate with the call centre of the Ministry.
Vietnam – intact
On 3 May, international travel agencies were advised to rethink and revise tours to Sri Lanka during this period to ensure safety and security. It was advised to avoid crowded and sensitive areas, and to be mindful about the warnings issued by the local agencies, while avoiding the affected areas as well.
Russia – intact
On 22 April, Russian citizens were advised to refrain from visiting Sri Lanka until the situation is normalised, and advised to exercise maximum caution and avoid crowded places. This has not been relaxed.
United States – intact
On 26 April, the US travel advisory on Sri Lanka dated 26 April is presently at “Level 3 – reconsider travel to Sri Lanka due to terrorism”. This is still valid.