- Tourists from all countries permitted unless otherwise specifically mentioned
- Arrival of tourists would be decided on the testing capacity of private laboratories
- SLTDA asked to ensure that details of arrivals are shared with MoH
- All tourists must have mandatory insurance cover of at least Rs.5mn
- Guidelines discourage any possible interaction between tourists and locals
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The local tourism sector was issued with a fresh set of health guidelines this week to accommodate international travellers in the coming months with the anticipated opening up of the country’s airports for tourism by end of this month.
The eight-page document that was circulated among tourism sector stakeholders on Wednesday (January 6) evening was approved by the Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena.
The guidelines exclude business visas.
The new set of protocols state that tourists from all countries are permitted unless otherwise specifically mentioned.
The arrival of tourists would be decided on the testing capacity of private laboratories as determined by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) jointly.
While foreign guests are allowed to land at both Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is given the responsibility of informing all flights bringing in international travellers that the country’s health guidelines must be adhered at all times, throughout their stay.
For crewmembers, the arrangements are to be agreed with the CAA in advance according to the existing health guidelines for airline crew.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) should ensure that the details of arrivals are shared with the MoH, Chief Epidemiologist and the local area Medical Officer of Health prior to the arrival of fights, the guideline stressed.
Prior to boarding, tourists must produce a negative PCR test from an accredited laboratory taken 96 hours before entering the aircraft. Health declarations must also be filled and submitted prior to boarding the flight, in flight, or on arrival.
All tourists must have a mandatory insurance cover of at least Rs.5 million equivalent in US dollars.
The first PCR test would not be carried out at the airport on arrival, but at the hotel, where it should be facilitated with a MoH-approved private laboratory.
With regard to accommodation, all travelers must spend their initial 14 days in a tier-one hotel, however, within this period guests are permitted to stay in more than one hotel that are certified ‘Safe & Secure’ by the SLTDA, provided the first PCR is negative and tourists are travelling under a bio-security bubble.
Although tourists are not permitted to move outside the hotel within the first two weeks, they can visit identified sites approved by the tourism taskforce, provided the first PCR is negative and are moving under a bio-security bubble.
“SLTDA must make arrangements using appropriate methods to carryout continuous assessments and audits to ensure the safety and security standards of certified’ Safe & Secure Level 1’ hotels are maintained,” the guidelines stressed.
Hotels will only be permitted to operate with a maximum capacity of 75 percent and can open spas and swimming pools for tourists.
From the point of arrival, groups should not be mixed during transportation and hotels and travel agents must have an advanced transportation plan.
Domestic flights will be permitted subject to health protocols being strictly followed.
All personnel who would be directly involved with the tourists will be quarantined for 14 days unless they attend to their duties in full PPE.
The MoH stressed that the travel agents must ensure adequate PPE, masks, and sanitizers are provided for tour guides, drivers, and assistants.
The guidelines discourage any possible interaction between tourists and locals. While hotels must ensure that the property perimeter is secure leaving no room for interactions, tourists will be able to engage with the local community only after the first 14 days and if all PCR tests are negative.
Furthermore, in the event a tourist tests positive for COVID-19, the hotel must admit the guest to a private hospital approved by the MoH.