Curfew lifted in Colombo after 2 months

Health authorities have issued guidelines for eateries, restaurants, salons, and other social gatherings

Published - May 26, 2020 10:54 pm IST - Colombo

RIsky ride: Commuters boarding a bus in Colombo following the lifting of curfew after two months.

RIsky ride: Commuters boarding a bus in Colombo following the lifting of curfew after two months.

After over two months, authorities in Sri Lanka lifted the curfew — except during nights — in capital Colombo on Tuesday, signalling Sri Lanka’s “gradual return to normalcy” since the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) pandemic hit.

From March 10, the island nation has reported 1,278 COVID-19 positive cases, 712 recoveries and 10 deaths, as of Tuesday evening.

Colombo district accounted for the highest number of cases so far — 150, according to the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry — and has been on police curfew, though the curfew was eased in most other districts sooner.

Health authorities have issued operational guidelines for eateries, restaurants, salons, conduct of weddings and funerals that include limiting the number of people — a maximum of 100 for weddings — regular disinfection of surfaces, providing hand washing facilities, checking temperature and mandatory face masks.

Further, senior police official Ajith Rohana on Monday warned that those who fail to maintain physical distancing in public places will be arrested. In the last two months, police arrested some 60,000 “curfew violators”.

Meanwhile, a task force entrusted with COVID-19 control, on Tuesday proposed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that Sri Lanka reopen its airports to foreign tourists from August 1.

President Rajapaksa underscored the need to follow health guidelines “issued by international and local health experts”, according to a statement issued by his media division. Sri Lanka could be “at the forefront of tourism revival”, based on a “well-planned strategy”, he said.

‘Targeted and tough control measures helped Sri Lanka arrest virus spread’

While the lifting of curfews would help a “gradual return to normalcy”, the risk of COVID-19 has not been “eliminated 100%”, according to Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director General of Health Services. “This is the time when people and institutions have to be very vigilant and follow the guidelines. We have to ensure there is no second wave,” he told The Hindu .

Frontline health workers are treating patients from a large cluster of Navy personnel — over 600 infected — while dozens Sri Lankans who recently returned from Kuwait and were under quarantine, have tested positive in the last two days. Calling for utmost vigilance at this time, a public health expert, who requested not to be named, said: “We are nowhere near the beginning of the end of this pandemic. If at all, we might just be at the end of its beginning.”

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