Revised tourist health guidelines issued: Biz travellers to be excluded

  • Business visas to be treated case by case


By Dinitha Rathnayake


The revised health guidelines that are set to come into effect with the reopening of tourism on 23 January will not apply to those travelling on business visas, with these travellers being considered on a case-by-case basis, The Morning learnt.

Ministry of Health Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told The Morning that the health guidelines for business visas can change on a case-by-case basis, but that even people who come under business visas would have to stay for a 14-day quarantine period.

However, special cases where visits are done only for the signing of a project or a one-day visit is made for a specific reason, would be treated as exceptions, where the travellers would be allowed to come to Sri Lanka and return to their country with limited interactions when in the island.

Overall, tourist arrivals will be decided on the basis of the testing capacity of private laboratories, the latter of which will in turn be determined jointly by the Ministry of Health, which formulated the revised guidelines, and the Ministry of Tourism.

According to the new health guidelines, which were seen by The Morning yesterday (7), in addition to charter flights and scheduled flights to the airports in Katunayake and Mattala, tourists are allowed to travel on private jets.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also have the responsibility of informing all flights bringing in tourists to abide by the health protocols. The arrangements for the crew also have to be agreed upon in advance with the CAA and the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. (AASL).

All travellers should stay for the initial 14 days in a safe and secure hotel certified as a Level One category hotel. However, the tourists would be permitted to stay in more than one Level One category hotel, whilst being within their bio-secure travel bubble, if the on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result is negative. After the lapse of 14 days, the tourists are permitted to interact with the community if the subsequent PCR tests give  negative results again.

On-arrival PCR tests should be arranged by the approved private hotel the tourist is staying at, with a private sector laboratory approved by the Ministry of Health. According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Nawaloka Hospitals PLC, Lanka Hospitals, Asiri Hospitals PLC, Durdans Hospital, and Hemas Hospitals are the selected hospitals to facilitate such laboratories.

In terms of transport, domestic flights are also permitted, subject to strict health protocols. However, the travel agents and the hotels are advised to follow the health guidelines and to notify the nearest Medical Officer of Health (MOH), the Covid-19 Task Force, and the SLTDA Director General of the travel plans. Unless attending in full personal protective equipment (PPE), all personnel involved in transportation-related activities will be quarantined for 14 days.

The maximum space used in a hotel will be 75% while the rest would be reserved for isolation purposes where a designated medical officer will be in charge of the health of the guests and the staff. Domestic guests are not welcome in hotels in the Level One category if there are tourists being accommodated in them.

According to the SLTDA, guests showing symptoms of Covid-19 are advised to get admitted to a private hospital approved by the Ministry of Health and the area MOH is to be informed.