Government to advise tourists on wearing masks 

  • Blames European attitudes to shedding masks post vaccination 

BY Dinitha Rathnayake 

The Tourism Ministry is to advise tourists with regard to the need to and importance of mandatorily adhering to the Covid-19-related preventive health guidelines issued by the health authorities, including wearing facemasks properly when in public. 

Speaking to The Morning, Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi said that the Ministry does not justify the attitudes of foreigners. However, he noted: “In most of the countries, especially in the European region, they do not encourage people to wear the mask since most of the population is vaccinated. I think that this may be the reason why the tourists in Sri Lanka don’t wear the mask.” 

According to him, the tourists tend to wear the mask in common areas such as supermarkets, buses, and trains, but not in open areas such as on the beach. 

“We could take steps to advise the tourists in the country through the hotels and travel agents whereas the tourists who arrive in Sri Lanka will be advised through the airport authorities immediately upon arrival.” 

This move comes in the wake of revelations from public health inspectors (PHIs) that they had received complaints regarding tourists, especially those visiting the island’s southern coastal regions, not wearing facemasks. 

The PHIs Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) warned that Sri Lanka would face a risky situation during the coming week owing to visiting foreigners’ attitudes towards following the Covid-19 pandemic prevention health guidelines. Speaking to The Morning, PHIUSL Secretary Mahendra Balasooriya said that the ground-level reality is different from what the health officers think it to be. 

“We have received several complaints related to tourists, about most of them not wearing masks at the moment.” Balasooriya added that complaints received from Galle and Unawatuna, especially, highlight the need to follow the health guidelines. “It is not an issue with the locals, as they wear the mask, but tourists don’t. We might therefore have to face certain consequences in the future.” 

A total of 7,096 tourists had arrived in Sri Lanka from 1 to 13 October according to the official figures released this week and Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has said that October is likely to record the highest monthly arrivals for this year. The Tourism Ministry said that so far this year, September saw the highest tourist arrivals of 13,547. Up to 13 October, a total of 45,413 tourists have arrived in the country since the reopening of borders on 21 January, according to the Ministry. The majority of tourists who have arrived in Sri Lanka so far this year are from India, Kazakhstan, Germany, Ukraine, the US, China, Canada, Britain, France, and Russia.