The Sri Lankan High Commission says, its high level of “disaster preparedness” acquired after the 2019 bombings helped it cope well with the Covid crisis.
The country’s high commissioner to the UK, Saroja Sirisena, hailed its “phenomenal” healthcare response and said she was hopeful Sri Lanka was “on track” to make it off the UK’s red list from September.
A total of 267 people were killed in the suicide bombings on Easter Sunday 2019, which targeted three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka.
Sirisena told Travel Weekly: “When a country has gone through something, it comes out better prepared for things in the future.
“We have been really disciplined [with Covid]. Our approach was criticised by some because we got the military involved to handle some sections of the operation, but we moved really quickly. We shut our airports and wouldn’t even let Sri Lankan nationals back in. The army set up hospitals in 10 days, and our healthcare system was phenomenal.
“There were about 20,000 Brits who actually opted to stay in Sri Lanka as they felt safe there. We had only 13 or 14 deaths until October last year.”
Current entry requirements to Sri Lanka are two vaccinations, a negative PCR test prior to travel and a negative PCR test on arrival, with one day in quarantine while awaiting results.
“We will have everyone over the age of 30 double-vaccinated by September,” said Sirisena. “People will still test positive but the number of people getting ill is much lower and so hospitals aren’t getting overwhelmed.”
Sirisena said Sri Lanka offered Brits a great option for travel once the restrictions around the world ease and expects visitors to stay longer post-Covid.
“The average length of stay is currently seven days, and they tend to do two activities – maybe the city and the beach. But we think once this is over and people have travelled that far, they will stay a little longer and do maybe three activities – adding in trips to the rural interior to the tea plantations or to see wildlife,” she said.
Sirisena said Sri Lanka offered great active and adventure options, such as cycling, white water rafting and tours to tea plantations.
And she said standards in the country were very high.
“Our rural is rural, but not backward. It’s beautiful and untouched but there is still electricity and internet connection,” she said.
“Visitors won’t see unpleasant things. They are most likely to see kids in uniform walking through the rice fields to school. It’s a very civilised society.”
Sirisena said wellness and experiential tourism were also growing in popularity in the country.