Starting Thursday, the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo will be partially shut down after 19 years for a week in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Sri Lanka. The development comes after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa decided to ban the entry of visitors as a drastic measure as confirmed cases in the country increased to 51, according to reports.
The last time the BIA was partially shut down was on July 24, 2001, when the LTTE militant group attacked the airport which claimed 20 lives and destroyed three Airbus aircraft apart from other damages. "Directions have been made to all online and offline carriers regarding the partial closure of the BIA from today for a week," Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) Director-General and Chief Executive Officer H.M.C. Nimalsiri told the Daily Financial Times.
The partial shut down will be subject to review by the Sri Lankan authorities. The entry of any national including Sri Lankans will be banned whilst the BIA will continue to service transit passengers and cargo as well as remain open for departures. Emergency diversions to the BIA, technical landings at BIA and inbound ferry flights without passengers will be allowed.
Nimalsiri also said that six hours was the maximum transit time at BIA. President Rajapaksa's decision to ban the entry of visitors comes amidst existing restrictions placed on arrivals from 17 countries worst-affected by the COVID-19. They are Italy, Iran, South Korea, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Canada, Qatar and Bahrain.