By Easwaran Rutnam
Sri Lanka is to reopen the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for foreign tourist arrivals by following a travel bubble system.
Under the proposed system, tourists will be able to visit only selected destinations in Sri Lanka.
A January deadline has been set to finalise the date to reopen the airport with the approval of the health authorities.
A joint committee, consisting of officials from the health and tourism sectors are in the process of drafting the guidelines to be followed when the airport is reopened.
The committee met on Saturday and will meet again today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) for further discussions.
Committee member Nimesh Herath told Daily Mirror that initially two proposals were made to reopen the country for foreign tourists.
One proposal was the travel bubble, where tourists travel directly to a select city in Sri Lanka from the airport while the other option was to allow tourists to visit any part of the country not in isolation.
However, it has now been decided to open the airport under a travel bubble as it is the safest option.
“We are looking at how other countries are implementing the travel bubble and travel cluster system. We will draw up a plan this week,” he said.
Herath said that under the travel cluster, tourists will be able to visit only selected cities.
“For example tourists will be able to visit only Bentota, Koggala, Yala or Pasikuda. We will decide the clusters this week,” he said.
Herath said that the travel cluster is being selected based on the location of the hotel, how isolated it is from the community, etc.
He also said that at least one hotel will be turned into a quarantine center in each cluster to be prepared to face any eventuality.
Herath said that all tourists arriving in Sri Lanka will need to undergo PCR tests on arrival and seven days after arriving in the island as well.
It is mandatory that all international visitors have evidence of a negative PCR test 72 hours before arrival.
All tourists will be required to stay a minimum of 14 days in the country.
The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) will be reopen in a phased-out manner, with no more than 300 arrivals per day in total as first phase.
The Mattala International Airport (MRIA) will be exclusively used for repatriation flights with first preference being given to the repatriation of citizens back to Sri Lanka.