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‘Learn to live with the virus’: THASL President Sanath Ukwatte

29 May 2020

  The Government has given the go ahead for all hotels and restaurants registered under the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Board (SLTDA) to commence operations starting 26 May.  The Morning Brunch spoke to The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte, who said that the industry will adhere to social distancing and all other necessary precautions as stipulated by the Health Ministry.  Ukwatte said that as it has been just two days since the go ahead has been given to those establishments registered with the SLTDA, he is uncertain of the number of patrons they have been receiving. However, he stated that the Government is of course not encouraging unnecessary public gatherings, but a country cannot be under lockdown forever.  Ukwatte shared that if you look to Europe, the majority of operations are back to normal, and as you can see, for the current protocols adopted by those counties, an economy cannot remain under lockdown forever.  Especially in Sri Lanka, he said that since we have not had a civilian contract the virus since 30 April, it can be said with confidence that there is no community spread in the island. The virus has been effectively contained and the only reported cases have been limited to the Navy officials and those coming in from abroad who have been contained to quarantine facilities.   He said that unlike other countries in the region like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives, Sri Lanka has done an admirable job in containing the spread, and there is a certain guarantee in our country that at least now you can gradually begin to get on with your lives.  It has been nearly three months of economic inactivity and we must take the first steps in gradually reestablishing the status quo, and Ukwatte said that they are comfortable in encouraging the public to patronise those establishments that will now be opening.  “We have to learn to live with the virus,” he said, adding also that a vaccine is not something that is  a feasible solution that will be available soon, and so we must maintain protocols and follow health and safety guidelines while going about our daily activities.  Ukwatte said that everyone must strictly adhere to the precautionary measures and continue to reintegrate into their normal, everyday lives.   

‘It has been reasonably good’: Harpo Gooneratne

The Morning Brunch also spoke to Harpo’s CEO and Founder and Colombo City Restaurant Collective (CCRC) President Harpo Gooneratne, who shared that despite it being only two days since operations were green lit, they have received an encouraging response.  He stated that patrons have been coming in, and they have been very conscious of the guidelines, maintaining social distancing while being respectful of the steps the establishments have adopted to effectively execute safety precautions.  [caption id="attachment_85929" align="alignleft" width="300"] Harpo Gooneratne[/caption] He shared that the outcome has been very positive, on both the customers’ end and the staff’s. “It has been reasonably good,” he said, and that while they never expected to immediately bounce back, as this is much different to what they experienced during the Easter attacks, they are positive that things will get on a steady upward incline.   

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