Difficulties in providing collateral and extensive paperwork, and delays in providing the money at the required time have made some of the Government’s main COVID-19 relief measures less effective than they could have been, business leaders said. Applications had been lodged with banks for debt moratoriums and the two-month working capital loan at four percent [...]


Police protection for Lanka’s diplomatic missions

Agitated migrant workers demand repatriation as pandemic spreads in the Gulf

Local Police have been deployed at Sri Lanka's missions in Seychelles, the Maldives and Kuwait to "protect" diplomats from Sri Lankan migrant workers who are incensed at not being able to return home.

The Ministry of Foreign Relations has also informed authorities, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, that there was considerable pressure on certain missions abroad from Sri Lankans and that police protection was obtained in places.

Many of these workers have lost jobs and accommodation owing to the pandemic and barely have food to eat. A large number are also deemed "illegal" under the stringent labour laws of host nations in the Gulf and rarely receive medical treatment if they contract the virus. COVID-19 has been spreading among migrant workers, including those who had been housed in amnesty and deportation camps in Kuwait before being flown to Sri Lanka on May 20.

In Kuwait alone, there are 16,300 Sri Lankans who are deemed "vulnerable" and want to come home, official sources said. There are 665 such Sri Lankans in Qatar, 327 in Saudi Arabia and 414 in the United Arab Emirates. There are a further 178 in Israel, 374 in Bahrain, 602 in Jordan and 123 in Lebanon. The number in the Maldives is 4,508.

These figures do not include students and other categories. When all those are added, around 41,000 still desire repatriation.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the COVID-19 Task Force this week, virologists pointed out that, of the three strains of the virus now identified, the one in Kuwait was more virulent and contagious than what Sri Lanka has so far experienced.

At the time of going to press, 321 out of 466 Kuwait returnees have tested positive for the virus. Some samples are being sent to a lab in Hong Kong for confirmation about the more virulent strain.

Two more hospitals have been opened exclusively for COVID-19 patients. They are in Teldeniya and Hambantota. A possibility is also being looked at of using a ship, possibly anchored off Trincomalee Harbour, as a quarantine ship.


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