SriLankan Airlines suspends Maldives flights over Sri Lanka airport closure

SriLankan Airlines has suspended its flight operations to Maldives, as Sri Lanka shuts down its main airport to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an announcement, SriLankan Airlines said flights operating to and from Maldives will be suspended from Thursday to next Wednesday.

The airline urged passengers booked to travel during the period to contact its representatives in the Maldives: +960 3333668, +960 7797673, +960 7936778, and +960 7926778.

Sri Lanka, which has recorded 51 coronavirus cases, said it would ban all incoming flights for two weeks from Thursday to combat the spread of the virus.

The country has also imposed a curfew in certain areas in a bid to control the spread.

SriLankan Airlines operates four daily flights from Bandaranaike International Airport to the Maldives main Velana International Airport, and six flights per week to Gan International Airport in the southernmost Maldives atoll of Addu.

The flagship carrier of neighbouring Sri Lanka is popular amongst tourists travelling to the Maldives from Europe.

Maldives has also taken a series of drastic preventive measures aimed at containing the novel coronavirus outbreak.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.

Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — have since been identified. All the patients are under isolation, being treated at designated quarantine facilities.

Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on Thursday, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a 14-day ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.

A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered.

The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.

Cruise ships had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.

Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.

The global coronavirus outbreak is expected to hit the Maldivian economy hard, as tourism contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

The government has already announced several cost cutting measures, including a freeze on the hiring of new staff and suspension of non-essential travel by state officials.

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