Sri Lanka postpones elections, adopts ‘work-from-home’ policy

Published March 20, 2020
Sri Lanka's general elections, scheduled to be held on April 25 have been postponed because of coronavirus. —Reuters/File
Sri Lanka's general elections, scheduled to be held on April 25 have been postponed because of coronavirus. —Reuters/File

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya announced on Thursday that the general election will not be held on April 25 as scheduled on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sri Lanka has up till Thursday recorded 59 coronavirus patients, with the first patient, a tourist tour guide having fully recovered early this week.

The government on Thursday also announced a “work from home” time period from March 20 to 27 for government and private sectors.

Health, banks, transport and essential services are to continue as normal.

Meanwhile, the hotel industry, one of the worst-hit sectors from the COVID-19 pandemic, on Wednesday called for urgent support from the government to prevent closures and job losses arising from the crisis of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka on Thursday announced urgent measures to ease pressure on the exchange rate and requested commercial banks to stop facilitating all types of motor vehicles and non-essential goods for three weeks.

Police curfew was imposed on Wednesday in the Puttalam district in the Northwest province and the Kochchikade area in Negombo, north of the capital Colombo. The decision to resort to police curfew in order to keep people in their houses, was taken in a bid to curtail the travel of those returnees who are evading quarantine.

Police announcements are being aired on loudspeakers in every district asking those who returned to Lanka between March 1 and 10 to register with the nearest police station.

Overall individual and social irresponsibility remains the number one challenge for the government and health authorities in Sri Lanka, as an exasperated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday narrated how he had called for the cancelling of the popular annual cricket match of two Colombo-based prestigious boys’ school in Sri Lanka but school authorities insisted on it being held as scheduled.

Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi addressing the media at a press conference said that currently, the government was moving in a step by step basis to see how the lockdown option is used selectively, in identifying areas there which are high risk and take action as needed.

Also, Sri Lanka’s health ministry reiterated that the country was not at risk from Chinese nationals who had recently come back to the country for work, stating that no Chinese national was under observation for the COVID-19 in hospitals in the country.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2020

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