January 1 (Daily Mirror) – Nearly 2600 tourists from Ukraine are scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka during the one-month pilot project which has been launched by the tourism sector in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority and other stakeholders, and will end on Jan. 19, sources from the Civil Aviation industry told Daily Mirror yesterday.
The pilot project which commenced from Dec.28 has already welcomed over 300 Ukrainian tourists out of which 6 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and are being treated at centers set up at their hotels where they are staying.
While authorities have said there will be no halt in the program, 10 charter flights are expected to, bring down the Ukrainians till Jan.19 which will result in nearly 2600 tourists arriving here under a strict travel bubble.
Upon their arrival at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the tourists will undergo PCR tests and will then be driven to their hotels, where they will undergo a quarantine for 7 days. Sources said on the seventh day, the groups will undergo another PCR test and only once all reports are cleared can they begin their tour under the travel bubble.
No tourist will be allowed to leave their hotels or step out of the buses when being taken to their destination. As part of the travel bubble, the tourists can only visit Bentota, Koggala
Civil Aviation sources said that in addition to the charter flights from Ukraine, if any other airline wants to land here with a tour group, they will be given the approval only once permission is obtained by the health authorities. This will remain in effect till Jan.19, afterwhich the situation will be reviewed if the airports can re-open for all tourists.
Meanwhile, former ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga who has been on the forefront in organizing the arrival of the Ukrainian tourists under the pilot project yesterday slammed criticism the pilot project had faced after 6 Ukranians tested positive for the virus.
In a post on his Facebook page, Weeratunga said the government would go ahead with the pilot project despite some Ukrainians testing positive as this project will not just help the hotels but will also benefit all those involved in the tourism industry.
He further said this pilot project will also strengthen ties between Ukraine and Sri Lanka.
The pilot project has received severe criticism on social media since 6 Ukrainians tested positive for the virus, with many social media users questioning the government as to why they wanted the additional patient load at a time when several countries were closing borders again in fear of the new strain of the virus. (Jamila Husain)