The United National Party has raised concerns over the ongoing tour by Ukrainian tourists around the country and urged the government to reconsider this ongoing tour in light of the growing concern over the spread of COVID-19 in Europe.
"According to global health statistics, Ukraine is currently listed as the 17th worst affected country by the virus. However, the Government has chosen to ignore these concerns and proceeded with a tour organised by an individual connected to the ruling family," the UNP said in a press release.
Despite strict health guidelines in place, including a mandatory 14 day quarantine for new arrivals, these tour groups have only been administered a 5 day quarantine. Furthermore, it has been reported that 6 of these tourists had tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the country.
Over the weekend 28 jeep drivers were forced into quarantine after they were hired out by the organisers to take the tourists into the Yala National Park. These drivers had been hired from Tissamaharama, and were not part of the original group of drivers who would have adhered to strict bio-secure procedures. The decisions taken by the tour organisers have been on ad-hoc basis, with authorities not being officially notified of any changes.
Local tourist establishments, which are already suffering from a lack of business, are not expected to see any major improvements through these tour groups. Hotels which are accommodating these tour groups have been forced to reduce their daily room rates by half. Locals who wished to travel around the country during the Christmas holidays were forced to adhere to numerous health guidelines, however, it appears as though these restrictions do not apply to the tour groups.
Former Ambassador to the Ukraine, Udayanga Weeratunga, has played an integral role in organizing this tour. However, there has been no transparency on who owns the companies that organised the tour groups, how those companies were selected and how much has been spent by the Government on this entire exercise.
The UNP urges the government to reconsider this ongoing tour in light of the growing concern over the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and the blatant disregard of the health authorities’ instructions.
An emergence of a new cluster of COVID-19 cases due to the tour groups will only serve to further damage the country's already floundering economy.