Colombo, June 15 – Fifty thousand more Sri Lankan citizens stranded overseas are awaiting to be repatriated while 8000 have been brought back into the country since the COVID-19 virus spread in many countries including Sri Lanka since March, a senior official at the President’s Office told the local Daily Mirror.
The repatriation plan which has been put together by the government and the health experts is going ahead without any hiccups and the government hopes to get back all local citizens in the next few months although a deadline is yet to be set to complete the repatriation process.
Yesterday a flight from Maldives carrying local citizens arrived at the BIA, and today a flight from Nepal is scheduled to arrive. On June 17, a flight from Dubai is scheduled to arrive, with a majority of passengers being pregnant women who had made an urgent appeal to the government to get them back home.
All passengers have and will undergo the PCR testing 48 hours before their flight schedules and upon arrival at the BIA, they will undergo another PCR testing by the medical officers stationed at the airport.
Diplomatic missions overseas are in touch with local citizens and are updating them on the repatriation process.
The senior official said that when the BIA opens up on August 1 for foreign tourists, the repatriation process will continue in parallel to tourist arrivals but those being repatriated from overseas will have to undergo the mandatory quarantine procedures. Tourists arriving will also have to undergo the PCR tests upon arrival but will be exempted from the quarantine procedures.
“We cannot delay opening up airport for tourists as the hotels need to open up and the tourism sector needs to resume operations as there are thousands of people who depend on this sector for their livelihoods. Ofcourse strict health guidelines will be maintained even for the tourists. But we will continue the repatriation process in parallel to welcoming tourists,” the official said.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan nationals in Mumbai, have made an urgent appeal to the government once again to expedite the repatriation process saying they had been stuck there for months and were now facing financial issues.
A Sri Lanka national who contacted the Daily Mirror from Mumbai said they had sent several messages to government officials and while the consulate in Mumbai was in touch with them, they were yet to receive a favorable response.