3. Should I stay or should I go?
Nobody really knows the answer here and nobody can tell you the answer. Everyone’s situation is different and there are a lot of factors involved in making this decision. Try to gather as much information as possible and then you can choose the best way to act for your situation. ❤
Sri Lankan Hospitals
There are good hospitals in Sri Lanka and there are poorly equipped hospitals in Sri Lanka. Some of the hospitals meet international standards and others do not and often people report mixed experiences. Local government hospitals in village areas are considered poorly run and equipped by most foreigners.
In relation to how the government will respond and if they are prepared: I believe the government is doing the best possible job they can do in this situation and I commend them calling a lockdown as well as setting up multiple quarantine facilities across the island which help prevent the spread of the virus.
However, there was a report released by GOMA that did make me a little uncertain about the medical facilities in Sri Lanka. I don’t know whether what they say is legitimate or fear mongering. If anybody reading this is able to clarify please do let me know. The report says:
“Furthermore, containing the disease, is the only path available to our country as our ICU services, including ventilator support, which is necessary to treat patients with advanced COVID19, is already at maximal utilization with virtually no reserve.” (link to full letter)
Do you have an at-risk medical condition? If yes, we recommend you are in a place / country that can best take care of you.
Inward international commercial passenger flights “Arrivals” will stop in Sri Lanka with effect from 0400hrs on 19 March 2020 until 2359 on the 25th March (SOURCE). Departure flights have been dramatically reduced however are still operating with a few airlines. Will flights continue? We don’t know it really depends on how both the local and global situation unfolds.
Emirates are still operating 4 flights per day until the 21st of March when they reduce to 3 flights per day.
Check your insurance
If you could potentially be stuck in Sri Lanka (given the situation that is unfolding and airports being shut down) you need to be aware of your insurance coverage. In an emergency, will you be covered financially? Do you have enough money to survive being in Sri Lanka for 2+ months?
In an emergency situation we still expect our governments to help us out – but this is still placing a burden on other people and the tax payers of your own country (as is using the public health system in Sri Lanka, it reduces the amount of beds for the locals).
Some insurance policies will not cover you through COVID-19 unless you go home “as requested by your embassy”. See point below.
Check travel advice from your own government
It’s always a good idea to check what your government or foreign embassy is suggesting. I’m not going to list all the advice here, but for me being an Australian, the following applies:
“As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult. You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to. Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.”aus govt
“If you are overseas and cannot, or do not want to, return to Australia, follow the advice of local authorities. Take care to minimise your risk of exposure to coronavirus including by self-isolating. If you choose to stay, note our ability to provide consular assistance in some places may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services.”
Visa Status / Extension
[18/03/2020] – Due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country, it has been decided to extend the validity period of all types of Visas issued to all foreigners who are currently in Sri Lanka. The validity period of all types of Visas will be extended to the12th April 2020. Accordingly, any foreign national is informed to visit the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration and Emigration on either 08th or 09th of April 2020 to pay the relevant fee and to get the visa endorsed in the Passport.
If one intends to leave the island during the aforementioned period; the journey will be facilitated by paying the relevant visa fee at the Airport without any penalty. I have called the hotline number (0771588724) and have the below summary.
- If you are currently in Sri Lanka on ANY TYPE of VISA, this will automatically be extended until the 12th of April.
- You do not have to go to the Dpt of Immigration to obtain this extension, except,
- If you are staying in the country past April 08 / April 09, you will have to go to the Dpt of Immigration and pay the fee (let’s wait and see how chaotic this might be, I’m not sure this will happen).
- If you are leaving before April 08, you will have to pay the relevant visa fee at the airport (not an overstay fee, just the normal extension fee).
What happens after the 12th of April?
Will your visa be extended if you are stuck in Sri Lanka? We really don’t know. Information from a meeting was released by Adaderana however none of this is confirmed as yet (10am on 21st March). I don’t think you should be worried about getting stuck in Sri Lanka and then having to pay a huge visa fee – people are smarter than to punish you for this. I do wonder whether the government of Sri Lanka will want to promote foreigners to continue to stay and to keep issuing 1-6 months visa’s for tourist given the situation.
Arrangements are being made for the smooth return of foreign nationals who are presently in Sri Lanka on tourist and other visa categories, says the Ministry of Foreign Relations. This will be done using both regular flight movements operating through Sri Lanka and also charter flights that may be deployed, as the airport remains open for outbound passenger movements. Modalities to facilitate these movements were discussed today at a meeting chaired by Secretary Foreign Relations, Ravinatha Aryasinha. The meeting was attended by the Ambassadors representing the western hemisphere as well as representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Police Department, Department of Immigration, Airport and Aviation Services, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Civil Aviation and Sri Lankan Airlines.adaderana.lk
Will I have accommodation and food if I stay?
Yes. I’m pretty sure I believe enough in humanity that people will feed you and give you shelter even if they have very little. No matter what happens some guest houses / hotels / hostels will remain open to house you. I don’t expect any food shortages or water shortages. Power will also be in abundance as all of the industries are not operating.
How will the locals react?
There is a lot of fear in the air both locally and globally about the COVID-19 pandemic. It can make people do silly things, not just in Sri Lanka but in many other countries (such as fighting over toilet paper). Tourists have mostly reported to me that they find:
- Locals being a little fearful of them (assuming they have corona virus).
- Some stores not allowing them to shop.
- Locals yelling “corona” and pointing at them.
I personally believe that this will be the worst of it and it would not escalate from this. As time passes and you become more familiar with your surroundings and the people around you they will also become more calm. If you are wearing a mask – the locals will respect you more (even though the reports say this does not really help unless you have the virus and washing your hands is much more effective than wearing gloves). We recommend if you are walking around to take the precautions necessary, take this seriously and then locals will see that you are doing your best to help stop the spread of the virus and they will respect that.
Friends and family
It’s worth thinking about how you would feel if you get sick if you do not have your friends and family around you. Some people are comfortable with this others are not.