Sri Lanka travel advice: is it safe to travel amid political unrest?

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A state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka amid widespread public protests as the country faces its worst economic crisis in decades

The country has suspended payments on its foreign loans, and its 22 million people are facing shortages of food, fuel and other necessities.

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A state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka (Photo: Getty Images)

What is happening in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has resigned after weeks of protests and a motion of no confidence in Parliament.

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Mr Rajapaksa resigned after being accused alongside his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of leading the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.

Demonstrators flocked to the entrance to the president’s office in the capital Colombo for a 32nd day to demand he follow in his siblings’ footsteps.

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The site outside Mr Rajapaksa’s office has seen thousands of people for more than a month, although the number dropped to a few hundred on Tuesday (May 10) due to a strict curfew imposed through Wednesday.

Government supporters gather outside the President’s office in Colombo (Photo: Getty Images)

Armed troops were deployed after violence broke out on Monday evening (9 May) in which more than a dozen homes of leaders of the ruling party were vandalized and set on fire, killing at least four people, including a ruling party politician , and almost 200 We are hurt.

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Imports of everything from milk to fuel have plummeted, leading to dire food shortages and prolonged power outages, and people have had to queue for hours to buy essentials. Doctors have also warned of a crippling shortage of life-saving medicines in hospitals and the government has suspended payment of £5.6 billion in external debt due this year alone.

Other global factors have also contributed to the crisis, including the impact of the pandemic on the country’s tourism industry and the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has pushed up global oil prices, and both the President and Prime Minister have since acknowledged mistakes that have exacerbated the crisis. including admitting that they should have requested an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout sooner.

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The President turned to the IMF in March after months of critical shortages of fuel, cooking gas and medicines had hit citizens and talks to set up a rescue plan, with progress dependent on debt restructuring negotiations with creditors. However, any long-term plan would take at least six months to get off the ground.

Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka?

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The UK Foreign Office is not currently advising against travel to Sri Lanka but warns that an island-wide curfew is currently in place and several violent incidents took place on Monday, including in the Galle Face area where authorities used tear gas and water cannons. Incidents also occurred at Independence Square, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theater in Colombo, near Beira Lake in Colombo and in Kandy.

The deteriorating economic situation in the country is leading to shortages of basic necessities, including medicines, fuel and food. As a result, there can be long queues at grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies, and local authorities may impose electricity rationing, which can lead to power outages.

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Buses carrying Rajapaksa loyalists to Colombo were set on fire or damaged by protesters (Photo: Getty Images)

The protests have been ongoing since March 31, 2022 and a state of emergency was declared on May 6.

There are reports that further protests are expected to take place across the island and that the government may impose local restrictions in the short term. Strikes can also happen without notice, which could disrupt services such as transport operations.

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Travelers are advised to avoid any protests, demonstrations or large gatherings and to follow the advice of local authorities. It is also recommended that you carry your passport with you at all times as official identification.

Additionally, changes to flights and airport operations could be made at short notice due to the spread of Covid cases in the community, and lockdowns or travel restrictions could be imposed in affected areas.

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