Is Sri Lanka Safe? - Coronavirus in Sri Lanka Updates & Countermeasures

Earlier this year, the existence & global prevalence of the novel Coronavirus was confirmed by the World Health Organisation, United Nations (WHO). While the virus seems to have originated from China - with over 800 cases, the virus has been reported to be transferable. 
The WHO has provided various guidelines to tackle the Coronavirus. The public health announcement suggests that the global public, especially international travellers, keep the following in mind:
  • Wear a mask, especially if:
Around anyone who is coughing or sneezing
You are coughing or sneezing
  • Sanitise your hands with alcohol-based hand soap/soap and water regularly, especially if you have touched any public object.
  • Avoid touching the front of your mask. Sanitise if you do. Remove your mask by touching it from behind.
  • Dispose of the mask safely. 
All countries have begun ensuring that the virus is contained. Similarly, Sri Lanka has taken adequate steps to ensure that travel to the Island-Country is safe. As of now, there has only been 1 case of the virus in Sri Lanka. She was a Chinese national in her early ‘40s under strict medical supervision in Sri Lanka. She was eventually discharged. There were a few more suspected cases of which two have already been identified as safe and uninfected.

On 27th January, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health declared that certain necessary precautions have already been implemented at the ports of entry. A 24*7 health desk has been set up at the Bandaranaike International Airport to screen all travellers who show symptoms such as high fever, cough, cold and difficulty in breathing. 

Srilanka has suspended Visa on Arrival for Chinese travellers following the day after health authorities detected the virus. Updated as of January 30th 2020. 

Appropriate measures including investigation and treatment will be followed for those who are found to have the virus. Thermal scanners have also been installed at the airport. A separate exit terminal has been set up for all flights arriving from China. Special guidelines have been made for hotels to ensure sanitation and safety for all guests and travellers. Specific instructions to regularly sanitise anything commonly touched by guests have been given. In general, hotel staff have been advised to avoid physical contact with guests. 
In case you, your travel companions or anybody you encounter appear to be affected by the Coronavirus, do contact the Sri Lanka Coronavirus Helpline at (+94) 710 107 107 / (+94) 113 071 073.

That said, is Sri Lanka safe otherwise? 

Sri Lanka

For a country flourishing with beautiful scenery, nature, culture, amicable and hospitable people, and wildlife, this exotic destination has seen a violent history, mainly due to Civil Wars and now the recent attacks. Cradling between Southeast Asia and India, Sri Lanka inhabits its own unique culture, geography, landscape, features, and customs. 

Similarly to how every country inherits its beauty, quirks, and snags, Sri Lanka has its hiccups too. Despite the recent attacks and 25 years of the horrific civil war, Sri Lanka, as a country, is otherwise safe to travel around and heinous crimes against foreign nationals are unprecedented. But, on the flip side, aggressive peddling, petty thefts, and scams are very common in a few parts of the country. So what should you NOT do when visiting Sri Lanka?

Here are some of the things tourists should never do in Sri Lanka, under no circumstance. 
1. Don’t turn your back or pose with your back to the Buddha statue.

Buddha Statue
Since Theravada Buddhism is officially the main religion of the country and most of the population follow Buddhism, this action of taking pictures while turning your back to the Buddha, is considered highly disrespectful. So much so that a wrong pose will take you on a one-way trip to the jail. Although, it is certainly okay to take pictures, just keep in mind to pose facing the Buddha statue, or any other deity, for that matter.
Also, don’t wear any outfit that has Buddha in it or displays a Buddha tattoo, if you have any. 

2. Don’t indulge in PDA
Public displays of affection, also known as PDA, is still considered a taboo in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, if you want to shower some love to your lover with a quick peck, do it like the locals and grab an umbrella. 

3. Don’t drink tap water
Whatever the reason may be, just avoid drinking tap water under any circumstance. The micro-organisms found in the tap water may affect your digestive system. Other than washing yourself, ensure you don’t consume tap water. 

4. Don’t be reckless while on the road

Many road deaths are accounted in Sri Lanka. Most of these fatal accidents are due to reckless driving, which can be due to many reasons including tuk-tuks driving on the wrong side of the road, motorbikes cutting and blocking on the sidewalk, and buses racing the red lights. 

5. Avoid eating with your left hand
In Sri Lanka left hand is used for “washing” purposes and is known for being “unclean” even if the hands are washed over 100 times. Sri Lankans follow eating with their right hands, and no matter how hard you find it to eat with your right hand when you are left-handed, respect the culture and oblige. And this follows while shaking hands, giving something or receiving things from someone, as well.

6. Don’t let tuk-tuks scam you
Don’t get into a tuk-tuk without checking whether the meter is functioning correctly or if they even have one. Negotiate the price if need be, when you know how much the cost is.

7. Don’t get bitten by mosquitoes
Although a malaria-free country, one must ensure to pack mosquito repellent sprays or creams to take precautions for dengue and other illnesses. 

8. Don’t forget to read a bit about the religion

Sri Lankan Temple
While visiting any temple, take your footwear off before entering. And never, ever touch a monk. Also, ensure to cover your knees and shoulders in religious sites. 

9. Never take a picture without asking
If you want to photograph people, ask for their permission beforehand. The same rule applies when you want to take a picture of the paintings or artefacts at galleries or museums. One has to purchase a permit if they wish to capture alluring pictures of the displays.

Is Sri Lanka safe for women?

Women Travellers in Sri Lanka
If a solo woman traveller traverses through the “Paradise Island,” be aware that you will garner a lot of unwanted attention from the peddlers, sleazy men, local men or just the curious men asking about your business. And when you travel with a group of people, these men are usually parked at bay. However, it is perfectly all right if a woman wishes to travel by herself. Keep in mind the pros and cons of your decision. If at any chance you are approached by men, make sure not to have any kind of eye contact and have a stern response to get the message across. If all else fails, trust the pepper spray to get the job done.

Along the way of your beautiful journey, you will meet many lovely, kind-hearted local souls, but still, be wary and never let the friendliness make you trust them blindly. Preparation is always vital no matter where you travel. Research about the attractions, hotels, the opening hours of places, addresses, ticket prices, etc. 

Do keep in mind to never wander alone at night, especially in deserted places. It is important to feed curiosity, but as long as you do it cautiously.

So, after reading the article, you will be better able to answer the question yourself to “is it safe to travel in Sri Lanka?”

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