Sri Lanka on Friday extended the current lockdown until September 21, amid a persistent fourth wave of COVID-19 and severe economic strain .
The decision to extend the “quarantine curfew” was taken at a virtual meeting on COVID-19 control chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a media release from the Presidential Media Division said.
“#Lockdown will stay in effect till (21/09). With numbers steadily declining, we’re confident that #lka will once again be able to reopen without risk. Pl adhere to the regulations, use this time to #GetVaccinated, #StayHome & #WearAMask,” Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said in a tweet.
The extension of the lockdown in the island nation coincides with an enormous challenge facing the national economy with falling revenues, mainly due to the pandemic’s impact on the export sector, worker remittances and tourism, the plummeting rupee – to around 200 against a U.S. dollar – and a steep increase in cost of living, leading to a “food emergency”.
President Rajapaksa recently imposed a State of Emergency, to ensure essential commodities are available to citizens, but government critics have slammed the regulations that, they say, could be used to targets dissidents.
Also read: What is Sri Lanka’s ‘food emergency’?
Sri Lanka’s chief response to the current wave has been to widen its vaccination net. As of September 9, nearly 46 % of the population were administered both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while almost 60 % have received at least one dose.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Media Division said experts would evaluate the prospect of re-opening schools and make recommendations soon. Economic centres would be kept open during the lockdown to help farmers, its media release said. In addition to reeling under the pandemic’s impact, Sri Lanka’s farmers have been voicing concern over the government’s recent switch from chemical to organic fertilizer, a move widely criticised as “ill-timed” and “dramatic”.