Special guidelines issued: Colombo back to work today

o Curfew lifted in 23 districts
o Colombo converts to lockdown scenario
o Staff ID, NIC, or report to work request required

By Sarah Hannan

In an effort to ease the country into normalcy, work resumes islandwide today (11) under strict conditions.

The President’s Media Division yesterday (10) noted that with the exception of the Colombo and Gampaha districts, the curfew in all other 23 districts will be lifted at 5 a.m. and re-imposed at 8 p.m. daily today onwards. Although the curfew will continue to be in effect in the Colombo and Gampaha districts, the workforce returning to office is allowed to commute, subject to several conditions as well. While state and private sector institution heads were informed to source many of their employees from within thedistricts, the Sri Lanka Police said exceptions would be made for those who have to travel between districts, given the circumstances. However, they will have to possess the necessary documentation to validate their commute.

“Our priority is to prevent the Covid-19 virus from spreading further in the society; that being said, the curfew is to be lifted in all other districts except for the Colombo and Gampaha districts today. The Government’s decision to resume work across the island will be set in motion and the country will still observe the Quarantine Act, while allowing people to return to normalcy under strict conditions,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Ajith Rohana said.

Although the curfew will be in effect for the Colombo and Gampaha districts, essential service providers in the state and private sector resume work today. Only one-third of the workforce is requested to report to work as the Government has informed institution heads to work with the minimum capacity needed.

Areas in which the curfew is lifted will resume work as per last week’s conditions; with people only allowed to move about for work and to obtain essential services. Public places are to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

In the Colombo and Gampaha districts, the public can go out of the house to purchase essentials and medication based on the last digit of the identification document (NIC). People reporting to work will have to show their staff ID or the request sent by their employer to report to work in an electronic form, such as an SMS, WhatsApp message, or email.

State employees travelling in their own vehicles should leave their homes early, so they could reach their workplace by 8.30 a.m.

This will reduce congestion, as private companies are required to commence work at 10 a.m. and they could commute to work between 8.30 a.m. and 10 a.m., the DIG elaborated.

“We are asking you to commute between these timeframes to avoid traffic congestions and to give checkpoints enough time to do their security checks and allow you to pass. With your co-operation, we will be able to conduct our duties without being an inconvenience,” the DIG conveyed to the public.

When leaving work, the workforce of state institutions could leave their office premises between 3 and 4 p.m., while the workforce of private companies can leave office between 4 and 5 p.m.

The DIG stated that these time schedules will not apply to state institutions or private companies that work on shift basis, i.e. factories, back offices, or retail stores.

“Anyone using public transport to go to work is to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Transport and the SLTB (Sri Lanka Transport Board) and SLR (Sri Lanka Railways). They can leave for work while allowing a considerable amount of time for their commute to reach to work – 8.30 a.m. for state sector employees and 10 a.m. for private sector employees,” the DIG noted.

Personal commute, even using one’s own vehicle, within the Colombo and Gampaha districts will be prohibited. Taxi services and ride-sharing services are allowed to operate in order to provide transport facilities to those who are commuting to work. These vehicles will have to follow the transport guidelines that were issued under the Quarantine Act.

The commuter will have to provide the necessary proof of call to work issued by the employer (via SMS, WhatsApp message, or email).

The workforce, be it state or private sector, should at all times have their office ID, staff ID, or alternatively, if their occupation is mentioned on their NIC, that too will be considered as a valid document to grant mobility.

In addition to that, the Police would also at times request a person to present the official request to report to work on the said day issued by the respective company; by the chairman, director, department head, or any authorised person.

The request can be made in form of an electronic letter sent through Viber, WhatsApp, or email to your smartphone, and in the absence of a smartphone, it can be sent as an SMS. This request should also include the authorised person’s contact number, in case the Police want to call and verify the request.

“These measures are in place to restrict people from misusing their office IDs to go about their personal errands,” the DIG stressed.