The first-ever partial shutdown of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in 19 years will come in to force today for a week, with authorities stating they have made all arrangements for a smooth transition. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday (17) decided to ban the entry of visitors from today for one week in a partial shutdown of the airport as a drastic measure to contain the spread of new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The previous partial shutdown was on 24 July 2001 when the LTTE attacked the BIA which killed around 20 people and destroyed three Airbus aircraft of the National Carrier apart from other damages.
“Directions have been made to all online and offline carriers regarding the partial closure of the BIA from today for a week,” Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) Director General and Chief Executive Officer H.M.C. Nimalsiri told Daily FT.
The one week until 25 March however is subject to review by the Sri Lankan authorities. The entry of any national including Sri Lankans will be banned whilst the BIA will continue to service transit passengers and cargo as well as remain open for departures. Emergency diversions to BIA, technical landings at BIA and inbound ferry flights without passengers to BIA will be allowed.
Nimalsiri also said that six hours was the maximum transit time at BIA. “We have instructed all online and offline carriers that the maximum permitted transit time at the BIA for any passenger should strictly be not more than six hours.”
In addition, the CAASL requires that the passengers must strictly have a confirmed onward connection out of BIA to an onward destination.
Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. Chairman Major General (Rtd.) G.A.Chandrasiri said all arrangements had been made to ensure the partial shutdown of the BIA will be hassle free.
He noted that the partial shutdown of the BIA was a step taken in the right direction to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.
During the COVID-19 Task Force meeting on Tuesday, President Rajapaksa also pointed out that Sri Lanka did not have the capacity nor the capability to quarantine all arriving passengers, hence as a temporary yet critical move the partial shutdown of the BIA was necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19.
President Rajapaksa’s decision to ban the entry of visitors comes amidst existing restrictions placed on arrivals from 17 countries worst impacted by COVID-19. They are Italy, Iran, South Korea, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Canada, Qatar and Bahrain. (CdeS)