The ongoing inter-provincial travel ban will be lifted on October 31, the national COVID-19 prevention task force said, despite social media accounts – and sometimes pictures – of people openly flouting the ban.
The restriction was imposed in conjunction with an island-wide lockdown, officially known as a quarantine curfew, that the government declared on August 20 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Despite the lockdown being relaxed on October 01 as cases began to drop, the inter-province travel restriction has remained, at least on paper.
Critics, however, claim that people have been traveling – some even going on trips – around the country blatantly ignoring the ban, despite President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordering the authorities to strictly enforce it from October 21.
“After a discussion among the task force on Friday, October 23, with the permission of the president, it was decided to lift the travel ban from 4am October 31,” Army Commander, Gen. Shavendra Silva told reporters on Friday.
Gen. Shavendra Silva, who heads the national COVID-19 task force, said all public transportation services will also restart on October 25 and will operate according to health guidelines.
Health officials have joined the chorus of voices lamenting the apparent lax nature of the inter-provincial travel ban. The public does not seem to follow health guidelines increasing the risk of another wave of the epidemic, they have said.
“The behaviour of the public is not satisfactory,” Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr. Ranjith Batuwanthudawa said.
“The public did not follow the guidelines in the first long weekend after restrictions were relaxed. It can again increase the number of patients to a level the health sector cannot cope with,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Gen Silva said the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered as a booster dose for frontline workers in the health, military, police and tourism sectors starting November 01.