The group of Ukrainian tourists who arrived on Monday at MRIA enjoying a cultural performance
- Tourism Ministry shares the guidelines less than 24 hours before arrival of charter flight from Ukraine
- Guidelines to be strictly adhered to for the period from December 27, 2020 to January 19, 2021
- Tourist arrivals limited to maximum of 300 passengers per day; CAA tasked with responsibility of maintaining the limit
- Tourists subjected to total of two PCR tests upon arrival and after five to seven days after arrival
- Industry representatives point out reduced quarantine period of seven days appears to be high risk move
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The Ministry of Tourism on Sunday (27) put out a set of modified protocols that are to be followed and the responsibilities of each stakeholder so that the execution of the ongoing pilot project aiming to review the country’s tourism industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic is successfully carried out.
The ‘Health Guidelines for the Tourism Pilot Project’ was officially shared by the Ministry with the industry and Sri Lanka Tourism less than 24 hours before the landing of
the charter flight carrying Ukranian tourists at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA).
The guidelines are to be strictly adhered to for the period from December 27, 2020 to January 19, 2021.
As per the document conceptualized by the Tourism Ministry, the arrival of tourists would be limited to a maximum of 300 passengers per day in total and it is the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure the daily arrivals do not exceed the limit.
The tourists are subjected to a total of two PCR tests of which the first will be carried out on arrival, before they check into their accommodation.
Tourists will not be permitted to move outside of the hotel, barring identified sites approved by the COVID Taskforce under a bio security bubble after the on-arrival PCR test result is negative.
The second PCR will be conducted five to seven days after arrival. In both instances, the PCR has to be arranged by the hotel with a private sector laboratory approved by the Ministry of Health.
While no ‘mixing’ of groups will be allowed, the guideline stated that the occupancy must not exceed 75 percent. The 25 percent of non-occupant rooms must be reserved for isolation purposes if the necessity arose for isolation of non-symptomatic COVID-19 positive guests, the guideline stated.
The hotel and travel agents are also given the responsibility to ensure that for the first 14 days, the tourists have no interaction with the local community, and discourage the use of pubic transport even after 14 days.
Creating a stir within the industry is the quarantine period reduced to seven days for the tourists instead of the 14-day isolation period mandated to any incoming traveller from abroad.
As the pilot project is carried out with tourists arriving from Russia and Ukraine, were the pandemic is highly prevalent, industry stakeholders shared with Mirror Business that the reduced quarantine period is a high risk move.
As of Sunday (27) Russia had over 28, 000 individuals tested positive for the virus, whereas Ukraine had over 6000 cases.
The tourism sector representatives also pointed out that the double standards in the quarantine periods, where repatriated citizens are subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine, while tourists have to be in isolation for only seven days, is a ‘serious discrimination’.
Speaking on the basis of anonymity, sector stakeholders said the groundwork for a gradual and safe opening of tourism for mid-January was underway, and without warning the charter flight was thrust on the industry players with adjusted and modified protocols.
Raising concerns on the pilot project was also the Institute of Health Policy Chief Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya who took to the Twitter to share his concerns.
“Tourist industry and the government are gambling with lives and our economy by letting in tourists with relaxed quarantine arrangements exactly at the moment that other countries are tightening their restrictions,” he tweeted.
Dr. Rannan-Eliya pointed out that the spread of the new virus strain from the United Kingdom is very likely in Ukraine as the country has low testing rates and does not quarantine international arrivals.