02/17/2021, 12.58
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No more contacts with foreign tourists to stop COVID variants

by Melani Manel Perera

The Department of Health calls for tourists to be isolated. This is frustrating for drivers and sellers, who earn a living with foreigners. For them, it is “a new curse for the poor”.


Colombo (AsiaNews) – The presence of foreign tourists in Sri Lanka has raised fears that they might spread the new variants of COVID-19.

Dr Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director-General of Public Health Services, has warned the local population, and raised the alert level.

“A number of tourists are spending their holidays in different parts of the country. We ask people to avoid any contact with them,” Dr Herath said.

Sri Lanka has reported so far so 409 deaths due to coronavirus, with 70,429 people recovered after contracting the disease.

For Deputy Director Herath, everything is being done to keep tourists isolated, but there is still concern that some locals will come into contact with visitors.

Health authorities are worried, in particular, that they may come into contact with tourists as they stop at selected tourist sites.

In order to prevent a new outbreak, the whole population has been asked to avoid gatherings, including religious celebrations.

“The police and hotels have been given clear instructions as what to do if someone comes into contact with tourists,” Dr Herath said. “We need everyone's help to ensure that the new variants of the virus do not spread in the country.”

His appeal has been met with frustration by those in Sri Lanka who earn a living with foreign tourists.

Nihal Kalugama drives a three-wheeled auto rickshaw and is usually stationed at the Colombo train station. Because of this new health warning he will face many economic problems, he told AsiaNews.

Upendra Vitharana, a sales clerk at Fort, Colombo, is also concern about the damage to business.

“If we want to sell something, we must necessarily approach tourists, talk to them to convince them to buy at a good price. The request by the Department of Health means we will have to close everything and stay at home and not earn a penny.”

“The new variants are a curse for the poor. The rich or those who have a prestigious job don’t need to leave home to work. But what are we supposed to do? We have to go out; we don’t have any other way to earn  a living.”

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