By Charumini de Silva
The reopening of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for all incoming passengers has been pushed back further to September by authorities due to the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
“Considering the recent developments of new COVID-19 infected clusters found within the country, the Government has decided to further delay the reopening of BIA for all incoming passengers,” Airport Aviation Services (Lanka) Ltd. Vice President Rajeev Sooriyaarachchi told the Daily FT.
Previously, the authorities were expecting to reopen the BIA on 1 August and subsequently moved the timeline to mid-August.
Pointing out that no specific date has been declared to resume operations at BIA, Sooriyaarachchi said the Health Ministry had been vested with the powers to announce the exact time of reopening the airport for all incoming passengers.
The Deputy Chairman also said that all repatriation of Sri Lankans stranded in various parts of the globe had also been temporarily stopped.
The focal point of the Foreign Ministry on COVID -19 Action and Director General East Asia Kandeepan Balasubramaniam confirmed that the repatriation of Sri Lankans had been suspended until further notice.
“We have temporarily suspended repatriation process until the local COVID-19 infected numbers reduce to a manageable level,” he added.
According to Foreign Ministry data, as of 14 July, 51,359 Sri Lankans from 118 countries have requested to be repatriated to the country. Nearly 15,000 stranded Lankans from 65 countries have returned to the country thus far.
“We do not want to strain the capacities of the quarantine centres. The repatriation process will resume once the local COIVID-19 infected numbers are contained,” Balasubramaniam stressed.
He pointed out that the repatriation process was temporarily halted due to the lack of capacity available at quarantine centres in the country. “As soon as this sudden spike of new clusters is controlled, the repatriation of migrant workers stranded abroad will be resumed,” he said.
The Sri Lanka Missions in these regions have assured the community members and students studying overseas that requests for return of Sri Lankans will be considered once the spread of the virus is contained in the country.