New mechanism to repatriate Overseas Sri Lankans affected by COVID-19

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The government is considering to formulate a new mechanism to repatriate Sri Lankans who are stranded or faced with various difficulties in the wake of COVID–19 pandemic, the President’s Media Division said today.

The nature of the new system will be decided at a meeting scheduled to be held tomorrow. Flights in June to bring back Sri Lankans home will be planned accordingly.

The program to bring back Sri Lankans who are undergoing many hardships due to the global spread of the virus commenced in last January under the guidance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Around 33 Sri Lankans including students arrived from Wuhan, China on February 1st. They left for their homes after successfully completing the quarantine process. On March 19th 839 Sri Lankans pilgrims who were stranded in several cities in India reached home.

By May 25th, a total of 5,485 Sri Lankans from 20 different countries were brought back. Out of the total 4,826 have been identified by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Sri Lankan missions overseas. Only 5 or 0.01% out of them were found to be infected following diagnosis.

However, out of 197 who returned recently from Dubai, United Arab Emirates 20 were tested COVID-19 positive. However when 150 out of 462 came from Kuwait were subjected to PCR tests 96 persons tested positive. More than 300 are yet to undergo testing.

Almost all the returnees from Kuwait were detainees at welfare centers or deportation centers in that country. It is also a requirement to provide medical treatments to the infected. In this context, it has been decided to revise the repatriation process for Sri Lankans living overseas. The Government has decided on humanitarian grounds to continue to bring back Sri Lankans in the future too considering their fate in the event of not having an opportunity to come home.

The Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Additional Secretary on Foreign Relations, Presidential Secretariat Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Specialist Epidemiologist Pabha Palihawadana and Director, Medical Research Institute Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara will participate in tomorrow’s discussion.

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