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Guidelines on Returning to Normalcy in Sri Lanka

2020 May 29

For the past two months, the Government of Sri Lanka, together with medical officials and the Tri-forces, have ensured the minimum spread of COVID-19 within the island. As we near victory over the pandemic, baby steps need to be taken to ensure the public remains safe in attempts to return life in the country back to normal. 

With the relaxing of curfews from the 26th of May 2020, the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Services have issued several general and activity specific guidelines to be observed in the upcoming weeks.

Click below to access each category. 

 

Transport

Offices

Banks

Restaurants

Barbers and Beauty Salons

Grocery Shopping

Clothing Shops

Alcohol and Tobacco

Tourism and Hotel Sector

Conferences, Seminars and Public Gatherings

Weddings

Funerals

Tuition Classes

Places of Worship

Gymnasiums

Parks

Swimming Pools and Beaches

Public and Private Parking Facilities

Visiting of Family and Friends

 

General Guidelines to the public

 

  • At all times, social distancing protocols with a minimum of 1m distance is to be complied with. 
  • Everyone needs to have their personal hand sanitation bottle and their masks worn at all times outside the house. 
  • Individuals with respiratory symptoms or fever are to refrain from leaving their houses until advised to do so by a medical expert. 
  • All organisations/gatherings/public transport vehicles need to have hand wash facilities or sanitation stations at the entrance. Moreover, signs need to be clearly displayed on all the preventive measures adhered to at the entrance of any establishment/gathering. 
  • An assurance form needs to be filled out by the owner/person in charge of any vehicle/establishment/gathering accepting full responsibility and stating compliance with all regulations. This needs to be handed to the local municipal council and the Ministry of Health beforehand.
  • An Employee Health Monitoring System is to be implemented for the daily measurement of staff members’ temperature and respiratory symptoms in all workplaces.  For retail establishments, staff are to work in rosters to ensure only the minimum workforce is present. 
  • Cashless transactions are encouraged as much as possible. Fail in which, the exact fare needs to be prepared to reduce the exchange of bills and coins. 
  • The use of air conditioning facilities in buildings/vehicles is to be avoided where possible, with adequate fresh air ventilation in place. Air conditioning systems and fans need to be cleaned thoroughly once a week. Doors are to be left open to reduce contamination through frequent contact.
  • If a COVID-19 case has been confirmed within the premises, the air conditioning system needs to be cleaned under the guidance of the Ministry of Health, and should not be switched on until clearance has been granted. 
  • If an elevator is used, the floor needs to be marked with the safe positions to limit the number of users at a given time.
  • All public toilets are to be cleaned regularly throughout the day and should maintain an acceptable level of hygiene.
  • Upon returning home, a full body wash is mandatory

 

As per the information provided by health authorities, here’s a timeline for the resumption of public activities for the next 3 months.
Source : World Health Organisation (WHO), Ministry of Health and Indigenous medical services.

 

Public Transport

Buses and Trains

 

  • Drivers and staff on board need to be equipped with their own bottle of hand sanitizer to be used every half hour. If possible, the installation of wall-mounted sanitation facilities is recommended. 
  • Only the maximum number of passengers permitted by the Ministry of Health should be allowed on board, with none standing. For trains, only half the carriage capacity is permitted.
  • Passengers are not allowed to sit adjacent to each other.
  • Adequate time needs to be given for passengers boarding and deboarding to ensure a no-touch policy on railings.
  • Passengers are advised to queue with a 1m distance at the station. After getting down, hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds. 
  • Buses need to be cleaned with a disinfectant at the end of each day.

Taxi services and Tuk tuks

 

  • Unless a family is travelling, only two passengers are permitted in addition to the driver. 
  • Passengers are discouraged from using the front seat, and a transparent barrier needs to be installed between the driver and passenger seats.
  • Passengers are to avoid contact with surfaces such as hand rests. 
  • Vehicles need to be cleaned at the end of the day with a disinfectant. 

 

Offices (Public and Private)

 

  • An officer needs to be appointed to strengthen employee awareness and for drafting a Response Plan to the “new normal”, together with ensuring its implementation. 
  • Employees are to work on a roster basis, such that the office staff count does not exceed 50% of its capacity. 
  • All staff members are to refrain from sharing water bottles, food and stationery. 
  • The management is to ensure proper waste disposal from the office at the end of each working day.

 

Banks

 

  • An officer needs to be appointed at each bank for drafting a Response Plan to the “new normal” and ensuring its implementation. 
  • Customers are to be encouraged to use electronic banking facilities and ATMs for day to day business.
  • Layout of the bank and floor plan need to be adjusted to maintain 1m distance between all personnel.
  • All cash counters, ATMS, fingerprint scanners, desks and public seats need to be disinfected between customers.
  • Customers are requested to bring their own pens. Banks are not permitted to have general use pens at their counters.

Restaurants

 

  • Special incentives are to be provided for online orders and takeaway/pickup options with separate counters for these.
  • Large scale dining reservations are to be politely rejected. 
  • The lobby, elevator entrance and checkout counters need to be kept clean at all times. 
  • Menus are to be displayed on screens or under glass tables.
  • The number of eating spaces are to be reduced to arrange customer seating at every other table, with all furniture disinfected between customers.
  • Buffets and self-service options are to be handled only by dedicated staff.
  • All establishments are to enforce the prohibition of smoking on premise. 

Barbers and Beauty Salons

 

  • Salons may only provide cutting/trimming and dyeing of hair, manicures, pedicures and waxing of arms and legs. The services offered need to be clearly displayed at the entrance of the building. 
  • Shaving of beards, threading of face, facials and makeup are considered high-risk services and can only be carried out by salons who have received permission to do so by Health Officials. 
  • Employees need to be briefed on all the do’s and don’ts pertaining to COVID-19 regulations.
  • Customers are only to be taken on an appointment basis, after having their temperature checked upon arrival. 
  • All towels and linen need to be washed before reuse on another customer. 
  • Sharing of equipment like combs and scissors between barbers is discouraged. All equipment needs to be disinfected prior to use between different clients. 

 

Supermarkets, grocery shops, open markets and street vendors

 

  • Online shopping is to be encouraged as much as possible. Shops only close to the customer’s home are to be visited during this time.
  • Staff training on COVID-19 prevention methods need to be carried out by a certified official prior to opening for business.
  • Customers are advised to plan their shopping to minimise the time spent at shops. 
  • The number of persons entering the shop is to be controlled. For large buildings, a shelter needs to be set up outside the premises for customers to wait in line until it’s their turn to enter.
  • Floors need to be marked with the required spacing for queues at cashiers and checkout counters.
  • For open markets, the path customers are to follow for the visitation of all stalls need to be clearly displayed. In large markets, the venue is to be divided into sub areas to control the number of customers at a given time. 
  • Open markets are requested to operate on double its normal days to minimise the crowd arriving on a single day.
  • A division needs to be established under the urban municipal councils to inspect and allocate safe spaces for street vendors to carry out their business, with regular inspection. This division is also to overlook the registration of all street vendors in their area.

Clothing shops

 

  • Temperature checks need to be carried out on all customers at the entrance of the shop. This can be manual or with the use of monitoring equipment. 
  • The fit on and return policies are to be discouraged until further notice. This needs to be clearly displayed at the entrance to the shop.
  • Flow of customers within the shop needs to be strictly controlled to avoid congestion of a single area. 
  • Floors need to be marked with the required spacing for queues at cashiers and checkout counters.
  • Senior citizens and small children are requested to refrain from idling in shops. 

Sale of Alcohol and Tobacco 

 

Smokers are at higher risk of infection from CoVid-19 due to the increased contact between fingers and lips for possible transmission. Furthermore, weak lungs and respiratory hindrances may increase the fatality of infection. 

Consumption of alcohol reduces immunity and increases the vulnerability of infection. 

However, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has been given permission to operate certain hotels and restaurants where they can sell liquor with the approval of the health authorities and in line with the Quarantine Act.

 

 

Tourism and Hotel Sector

 

  • Opening of hotels is to strictly adhere to government approvals.
  • All staff are to be given a detailed briefing on the safety measures to be observed in the upcoming weeks.
  • Strict log of all guests with their contact numbers needs to be maintained by the management.
  • All foreign guests need to show proof of travel and health insurance prior to checking in, to cover any possible cost of treatment/hospitalisation.

Conducting of conferences/seminars and public gatherings

 

  • A circular needs to be provided in advance to all invitees detailing the preventive measures that need to be observed at the meeting/seminar. 
  • A list of all invitees with respective contact details is to be maintained.
  • Meetings are to be organised short as possible.
  • All desks, chairs and surfaces including door handles need to be cleaned thoroughly before the gathering. 
  • Face to face seating arrangements and physical contact such as handshakes are discouraged.
  • Sharing of microphones and stationery is prohibited.
  • Buffet and food arrangements are to be handled only by dedicated staff. Tea/coffee is to be served in single use cups.
  • Closed bins need to be provided for safe discarding of tissues and other disposables.

Weddings

 

  • A health and safety officer needs to be appointed and liaised with in preparation for the ceremony.
  • Hotel management needs to accommodate only up to 50% of the venue’s capacity and have it capped at 100 guests per event. 
  • Physical contact such as shaking hands and hugs are ill-advised.
  • Discourage the setting up of dance floors as physical distance cannot be maintained. Only the couple getting married and a group of maximum 4 persons may be allowed to dance at the ceremony.
  • Hand sanitizer bottles are to be placed in several accessible places at the venue.
  • Consumption of alcohol is prohibited. 
  • Buffet and food arrangements are to be handled only by dedicated staff.
  • Thorough cleaning and disinfection of the venue has to be carried out soon after the ceremony.

 

Funerals

 

  • A strict private/ family only policy is encouraged within the minimum number of days. For everyone else, conveying condolences via phone or email is advised.
  • Consumption of alcohol and tobacco, chewing of betel and board/card games are prohibited.
  • Maximum ventilation at the venue and disinfection of common contact surfaces like chairs and door handles need to be ensured.
  • For deaths due to COVID-19, funeral arrangements need to be observed in accordance with the respective regulations.

 

Tuition Classes

 

  • Where possible, online learning is to be encouraged.
  • Establishments are to have an Emergency Response Plan which needs to be conveyed clearly to all its students.
  • A database of all students and their contact details needs to be maintained with a daily attendance register.
  • “Mass classes” are to be conducted with only 50% of its occupancy. For institutes with multiple classes conducted simultaneously, the starting, ending and interval times need to be spaced out to reduce gathering of students. 
  • Prior to beginning a class, all desks, benches and surfaces (including the floor) need to be cleaned with a disinfectant. 
  • The circulation of attendance sheets and “class cards” is discouraged. If printouts are to be distributed, they are to be picked up from a central location in the classroom with minimum handling.
  • Books and stationery are not to be shared among students. 
  • Students with mental health assistance and counselling need to be supported with the necessary help (through the Health Promotion Bureau by dialing 1999 or the Mental Health Helpline 1926).

Places of worship

 

  • Collective activities and gatherings are prohibited until further notice.
  • Where possible, congregational prayers are to be broadcasted through the media.
  • Almsgivings at temples are to be restricted to family only.
  • Distribution and sharing of food at religious places are prohibited.
  • For Holy Communion distribution at churches, priests are advised to place the Host in the communicant’s hands, rather than on the tongue. Sharing of wine is not allowed. 
  • Pilgrimages should not be organised under current circumstances. 

 

Gymnasiums

 

  • All equipment are to be placed at a 1m distance, and facing away from each other. 
  • All members of staff need to be educated on the necessary preventive measures and are to be equipped with personal hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants.
  • Restrict maximum number of clients per hour and have the gymnasium open only 2-3 days a week to prevent crowding. An appointment system may come in handy for this purpose. Also, clients are advised to refrain from spending more than 1 hour at the gym.
  • Clients are encouraged to bring their own bottles of water, towels and yoga mats.
  • Verbal screening for respiratory symptoms are to be conducted on all clients with their temperature taken at the entrance.
  • Clients are to change from the pair of shoes they arrive in at the entrance to the facility into another pair of shoes to be worn inside.
  • All clothes stored by clients are to be in separate lockers. Sharing is not to be permitted.
  • All benches, equipment and weights are to be disinfected between the use of clients, with the floor mopped at least 3 times a day.
  • All clients are requested to focus on using gymnasiums to remain healthy during this time, rather than for bodybuilding and rapid weight loss programs. 

 

Parks

 

  • The number of visitors to parks should be strictly limited to the capacity of the park, with only one per adult for supervision per child. 
  • The use of children’s play areas is prohibited until advised to do so by Health Officials.
  • Food vendors in the park are to follow strict face and hand hygiene guidelines.

Swimming Pools and Beaches

  • Popular beaches need to be under the supervision of the health authorities at all times.
  • Swimming pools are to be disinfected regularly with the pH maintained between 7.4 and 7.8.
  • An appointment system needs to be implemented for pool users, to book a time and avoid overcrowding. A log of all visitors to the pool needs to be maintained with name, address and contact number.
  • All users of swimming pools need to have their temperature checked prior to getting in, and should be below the threshold temperature of 37°C/98.4°F. 
  • The maximum number of occupants to maintain a 1m distance per swimming pool needs to be established and strictly adhered to. 
  • Adequate towels need to be provided, and discarded in a safe manner after use.
  • Drainage from pools should be disposed into drain lines and not into soil. 

 

Public and Private Parking facilities 

 

  • Ticket counters and automated machine buttons need to be cleaned regularly with a disinfectant.
  • The exchange of cash is to be eliminated as much as possible with the use of automated/self ticketing.
  • Keys are not to be collected from customers to move vehicles. Instead, owners are requested to prominently display their contact number in case relocating their vehicle is required later on. 
  • Valet services are strictly discouraged. 
  • Where possible, avoid asking for receipts.
  • Any parking tickets issued needs to be safely disposed of. 

 

Visiting of family and friends

 

  • The use of digital platforms to stay in contact with friends and family is highly recommended during this period, with all non-essential travel limited. 
  • Visiting pregnant women, senior citizens and individuals diagnosed with chronic illnesses are to be avoided for the benefit of both parties. 
  • Quarantined and self isolating houses and households with members showing respiratory symptoms or fever are not to be visited.  
  • Respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene need to be observed at all gatherings. 
  • Physical contact like handshakes and hugs are discouraged. 
  • Clean cutlery needs to be used when offering/accepting food and beverages. 

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