An immigration officer walks at the arrival terminal of the Bandaranaike International airport in Katunayake on March 19, 2020, following the Sri Lankan government order to ban all incoming flights for two weeks as preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi)
Sri Lanka's virus-battered tourism industry can reopen for foreign guests from August but under strict guidelines, including multiple coronavirus tests during their stay, officials said Saturday.
Tourism was only just recovering from the effects of last year's Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people, including 45 foreigners, when the virus halted international travel to the island and forced hotels to shut, leaving tens of thousands of people jobless.
Sri Lanka's tourism ministry said travelers will be able to visit from August 1, but they must carry a COVID-19 free certificate issued not earlier than 72 hours before boarding.
Even with this document, tourists will have to take a virus test at the airport upon arrival. A further check will be done four to five days later -- and a third if staying for more than 10 days.
"While this may be inconvenient it is essential to safeguard everybody and provide peace of mind," the ministry said.
The regular visa fee of $40 has been increased to $100, visitors can only stay in hotels designated by the ministry, and are not allowed to use public transport on the island.
In addition, only those who will spend a minimum of five days in Sri Lanka will be allowed in.
The country has reported 11 deaths and 1,801 infections since its first coronavirus patient was identified on January 27.
The number of visitors to Sri Lanka dropped to 1.91 million last year, down from 2.33 million in the previous year.
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