COVID-19: Lanka postpones airspace reopening for commercial flights

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Colombo, Dec 26 (PTI) Sri Lanka has postponed the reopening of its airspace for commercial flights, scheduled for Saturday, to prevent the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, officials said.

The next date for resumption of flights will be announced later.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) had announced last week that it will resume international flights operations from December 26, eight months after they were closed in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision to postpone the resumption of flights was taken in the wake of the new coronavirus strain, which is spreading fast in the UK, said GA Chandrasiri, Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services, on Saturday.

According to Rajeeva Suriyarachchi, another senior airport official, due to the postponement, the flight carrying Russian tourists which was scheduled to arrive in Lanka on Sunday has been cancelled.

The flight was a part of the government's efforts to reopen the island nation to foreign tourists amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a flight with a group of tourists from Ukraine will arrive in Lanka on Monday as scheduled, Suriyarachchi said.

Several countries across the world have already closed their land and sea borders and suspended commercial flights over fears about the new coronavirus strain.

Sri Lanka's two international airports were closed in mid-March, as the country went into a lockdown. The lockdown was gradually lifted by mid-May.

Initial plans were to open international flight by the end of August but the COVID-19 cases abroad rose and the plans were stalled.

Sri Lanka was hit by a coronavirus second wave in October.

The number of deaths which stood at just 13 in early October, stand at 185 currently. In total, the island nation has far recorded 39,231 COVID-19 cases. PTI CORR SCY SCY