Govt. to expedite PCR testing at airport for expatriate Lankans and tourists

Saturday, 18 September 2021 02:35 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Government has decided to expedite PCR testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport for returning expatriates as well as tourists, following a discussion held at the Health Ministry.

Sri Lankans returning from abroad will be sent direct to their homes within a few hours according to the results of an expedited PCR test conducted at the airport. PCR tests will be done quickly in the laboratory currently established at the BIA which will enable sending returnees home without hotel quarantining.

The discussion was held under the patronage of Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella with the participation of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and State Minister of Aviation and Development of Export Zones D.V. Chanaka.

The development of the tourism industry in line with health guidelines was also discussed.

The new initiative is expected to be implemented within the next two weeks and steps will be taken to upgrade the laboratory facilities at the BIA.

If the returnees have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine and the PCR test results are also negative, they can go home quickly, without wasting time and money unnecessarily, the authorities decided. The Health Department said that such PCR test reports could be submitted within three hours and that about 600 people could be tested within that period.

Analysing the prevailing health conditions in the country, Minister Rambukwella said that there should be some relaxation for the essential sectors of the country including tourism.

He said it was essential to uplift the tourism industry which is a major source of income for the country as well as a global trend and the maximum possible program should be implemented in accordance with the health guidelines, rules and regulations.

The Minister said the measure was expected to make some concessions in terms of the number of infected people in the country, the number of deaths and the use of oxygen.

Minister Rambukwella further said the Government hoped to control the COVID epidemic in a manner that would minimise inconvenience to the people but ensure that the health guidelines were strictly followed.

Tourism Minister Ranatunga said many countries around the world were now facing competition to build the tourism industry and for Sri Lanka to join that competition, the country needed to add more facilities to the tourism sector.

“Countries such as the Maldives and Turkey have already implemented programs to attract tourists, and we need to identify those methods and work to build the tourism industry under health guidelines,” Ranatunga added.

He pointed out that most of the health guidelines currently being implemented for the tourism industry were guidelines that were implemented before the introduction of the vaccination program in Sri Lanka and requested that the guidelines be reconsidered accordingly.

State Minister Chanaka said that a decision was made to identify the existing problems at the airport and take necessary steps to address them.

Steps will be taken to provide maximum facilities for activities including PCR tests conducted at the airport premises and the program will be implemented to the maximum extent possible for Sri Lankans coming from abroad to return home without any hindrance or inconvenience, the State Minister said.

It was also decided to hold bi-weekly discussions with the health sector on issues in the tourism and aviation sectors and the changes that needed to be made in relation to the situation.

Secretary of Health Maj. Gen. Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Company Chairman Retired Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, Ministry of Health Deputy Director General (Laboratory) Dr. Sudath Dharmaratne and Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) Dr. S.M. Arnold were also present at the discussion.