In a letter addressed to Sri Lanka’s Health Minister, Sri Lanka’s Medical Association and the Intercollegiate Committee have called for the banning of flights from 6 South African countries and to strengthen quarantine laws. However the virus has already been detected in the country.
“It would be extremely important to delay as long as possible the entry of this new variant to Sri Lanka until more scientific information of the variant becomes available and more people over 60 years in Sri Lanka receive vaccination with the booster dose” the letter states.
On Friday, Sri Lankan health authorities noted the first case of the Omicron variant in a Sri Lankan national with a recent travel history abroad. Sri Lanka has reported 5,65,471 cases of COVID, 10,000 of which are active in the country. An estimated 14,399 people have died from the virus in the country with daily cases at an estimated 750. However, experts have raised concerns over Sri Lankan authorities deliberately manipulating this data to underplay the severity of the virus.
The Medical Association’s letter further recognised that whilst the virus has been detected in these 6 Africa countries, it has also spread to Europe, Australia, and America meaning that “there is a very high risk of Omicron […] entering Sri Lankan in the near future through travellers from overseas from any country”.
They hence advise for the checking of all travellers via PCR tests at the airport before they come into Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has faced criticism from numerous human rights groups for the mishandling of the pandemic and their militarized response which has exacerbated “ethnic divisions”. The threat of travel restrictions further imperils Sri Lanka’s flagging tourism industry which has plummeted due to the pandemic.
Read the full SLMA statement here.