Travel bubble to burst after 14 days
Tourists allowed to mingle with locals
By Dinitha Rathnayake
Visiting foreign tourists will be permitted to leave the confines of their biological travel bubble and interact with locals after 14 days of quarantine, if both their PCR tests return negative results, The Morning learnt.
However, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe, speaking to The Morning yesterday (13), cautioned the general public to keep such interactions to a minimum.
“If the second PCR test is negative, the tourist does not have to stay in the biological travel bubble. They can instead stay at a normal hotel and spend time with the local community. However, the general public should have minimum interactions with tourists, as we do not encourage a tourist cluster emerging in the country,” he warned.
All travellers are required to stay within a safe and secure certified Level One hotel during their initial 14 days of quarantine. However, the guests would be permitted to stay in more than one Level One hotel if the on-arrival PCR test result is negative, whilst being within their biological biosecurity travel bubble.
According to Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Assistant Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge, authorities have taken minimum risk factors into account when devising the health guidelines.
“Even after 14 days of quarantine and after the second PCR test, someone can carry the coronavirus. We cannot be sure about the number of days during which they actually show the symptoms in the body, or when they exhibit symptoms. We cannot say with 100% certainty that there is no risk in opening the country’s borders on 21 January,” Dr. Aluthge told The Morning.
When contacted, Ministry of Health Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath told The Morning that while the Health Ministry is still supporting the reopening of borders on 21 January, the possibility of a change of plans is not out of the question.
“We are in a continuous dialogue with the Ministry of Tourism, since things could change at any moment,” said Dr. Herath.
With a new strain of Covid-19 being detected in the country from a visitor from the UK, concerns over opening up the country’s borders for increased tourist travel to resurrect the tourism sector, and the economy in general, have once again come to the fore, with authorities continuously monitoring the evolving situation.