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Tourists not responsible for COVID spread: Prasanna

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday vehemently denied allegations by certain Opposition MPs and activist groups that the COVID-19 spread was due to the opening of the country for

international travellers. “These claims are completely false and misleading,” the Minister emphasised in a statement. He pointed out that since the initiation of the pilot project for Ukrainian travellers from 28 December 2020 till 12 August, Sri Lanka saw 21,951 tourist arrivals. “Of the total tourists who arrived, only 220 tourists were COVID-infected, and 150 of them recovered and returned to their homeland,” the Minister revealed. He stressed that none of the infected tourists were exposed to the local community, as they were operating through a bio-secure bubble. The Tourism Minister also denied claims that tourists were responsible for carrying the highly infectious COVID-19 variants found in recent months. “The Indian and African variants of the virus were first found in Sri Lankan expatriates,” he added. Pointing out that tourism was the worst-hit industry due to the ongoing pandemic, the Minister said the Government was stepping up revival efforts with new promotions to attract international travellers, subject to health guidelines. “Tourism is one of the quickest ways to earn much-needed foreign exchange to stabilise the economy,” he added. In the first seven months, the top five tourist source markets for Sri Lanka were Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Germany, China, and the UK.

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