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Sri Lanka ends Covid lockdown after 40 days; some restrictions remain

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in mid-April when healthcare services started running out of their capacity.

Sri Lankan men drink tea next to a roadside food stall after easing of restrictions that were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (AP)

Sri Lanka on Friday lifted the nationwide lockdown which was imposed 40 days ago to arrest the rising number of Covid-19 cases, but restricted the non-essential travel as a precautionary measure, health officials said.

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in mid-April when healthcare services started running out of their capacity.

Following weeks of persuasion by the medical professionals, the government decided to impose the lockdown on August 20 after the health facilities came under strain due to the raging third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Covid-19 lockdown was lifted at 4 AM (local time) on Friday and new guidelines aimed at curbing the further spread of the coronavirus announced.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association has given a guarded welcome to the reopening of the country, saying it should be done in a phased manner. According to the health ministry, some restrictions, however, remain in place as a precautionary measure.

Sri Lanka’s Transport Board employees disinfect public buses as they prepare to commission them at a depot in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (AP)

As per the new guidelines issued by the health ministry, all non-essential travel and all types of gatherings are not allowed from 10 PM to 4 AM while travel between provinces remains banned.

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Dining at restaurants will be allowed only after October 16 while extra classes of private tuitions, cinemas, theaters, exhibitions and conventions will not be allowed until further notice.

Wedding receptions are limited to 10 guests.

“There will be no buses and trains operating for the next two weeks,” public transport minister Dilum Amunugama said, adding that the state institutions have been told to operate with minimum staff due to the non-availability of public transport.

Meanwhile, the country’s death toll, which was below 1,000 when the current third wave struck in mid-April, is near the 13,000-mark, according to the health officials.

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According to the authorities, the lockdown and the vaccination programme have slowed down the pace of infection and death.

Over 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population have been given at least one jab.

First published on: 01-10-2021 at 21:21 IST
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