03/18/2020, 16.41
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New anti-coronavirus measures taken as number of cases reaches 53

by Melani Manel Perera

As of tonight, high risk districts are under a curfew. Price controls have been imposed for basic items like dhal and canned fish. Sunday Mass is telecast. Only cargo planes are authorised to land. Borrowers are given a six-month grace period.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan government has adopted a series of measures to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country; they include curfew in some areas, a three-day mandatory holiday on 17-19 March, price controls of basic items, and aid to businesses.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi today issued the latest bulletin of the infection: 53 positive cases and 204 people hospitalised in 18 hospitals and quarantine centres.

An overnight curfew (from 4.30 pm until further notice) has been imposed on several districts in western and southern Sri Lanka: 11 in Puttalam, and seven in Chilaw, Negombo and Kochchikade.

These areas are deemed "high risk" because they are home to 800 of the up to 2,000 Sri Lankans who returned to the island between 1 and 9 March from three countries seriously affected by Covid-19, namely Italy, South Korea and Iran.   

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva asked people in self-isolation to avoid contacts with the outside world.

Meanwhile, public schools and universities, catechism courses, and Christian educational facilities are closed until 20 April.

The Catholic Church and Protestant denominations have offered to work with the government and comply with its measures.

Last Sunday, Sirasa TV telecast live the Mass celebrated by Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo.

Church leaders have cancelled all religious rites, pilgrimages, prayer services and other activities scheduled for Lent.

President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has banned commercial flights as of midnight today until 31 March. Bandaranaike Katunayake International Airport will remain open only for planes already en route. Restrictions do not apply to cargo flights.

The president also announced financial help for businesses, instructing banks to offer a six-month grace on loans. Speaking to the nation last night, he announced prices controls on some basic items and pledged future aid.

As of midnight today, the price of a kilo of dhal and a tin of canned fish cannot exceed 65 and 100 rupees (US.65 and US.55) respectively.

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