Sept 16, Colombo: A decision has been taken at a discussion held at the Health Ministry today to send the Sri Lankans arriving in the island from overseas to direct them to their homes within a few hours according to the results of an expedited PCR test conducted at the airport.
Accordingly, the PCR tests will be done quickly in the laboratory currently established at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport and it is expected to send the returnees home without a hotel quarantine.
The discussion was held at the Ministry of Health under the patronage of Minister of Health, Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella with the participation of Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga, and DV Chanaka, State Minister of Aviation and Development of Export Zones.
The meeting was held to discuss the development of the tourism industry in line with health guidelines.
The program is expected to be implemented within the next two weeks and steps will be taken to upgrade the laboratory facilities set up at the airport premises.
If the returnees have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine and the PCR test results are also negative, they can go home quickly, without wasting time and money unnecessarily, the authorities decided.
Meanwhile, the health department said that such PCR test reports could be submitted within three hours and that about 600 people could be tested within that period.
Analyzing the prevailing health conditions in the country, Minister Rambukwella said that there should be some relaxation for the essential sectors of the country including tourism.
The Minister said it is essential to uplift the tourism industry which is a major source of income for the country as well as a global trend and the maximum possible program should be implemented in accordance with the health guidelines, rules and regulations.
The Minister said the measure is expected to make some concessions in terms of the number of infected people in the country, the number of deaths and the use of oxygen.
Minister Rambukwella further said the government hopes to control the Covid epidemic in a manner that minimizes inconvenience to the people but ensuring that the health guidelines are strictly followed.
Expressing his views, the Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga said many countries around the world are now facing competition to build the tourism industry and for Sri Lanka to join that competition, the country needs to add more facilities to the tourism sector.
“Countries such as the Maldives and Turkey have already implemented programs to attract tourists, and we need to identify those methods and work to build the tourism industry under health guidelines,” Ranatunga said.
Minister Ranatunga pointed out that most of the health guidelines currently being implemented for the tourism industry are the guidelines that were implemented before the introduction of the vaccination program in Sri Lanka and requested that the guidelines be reconsidered accordingly.
State Minister of DV Chanaka said that it was decided to identify the existing problems at the airport and take necessary steps to address them.
Steps will be taken to provide maximum facilities for activities including PCR tests conducted at the airport premises and the program will be implemented to the maximum extent possible for Sri Lankans coming from abroad to return home without any hindrance or inconvenience, the State Minister said.
Meanwhile, it was decided to hold bi-weekly discussions with the health sector on issues in the tourism and aviation sectors and the changes that need to be made in relation to the situation.
Secretary of Health Maj. Gen. Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Retired Major General GA Chandrasiri, Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Company, Dr. Sudath Dharmaratne, Deputy Director General (Laboratory), Ministry of Health and Dr. SM Arnold, Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) were also present at the discussion.