Sri Lanka on Monday (March 9) suspended Buddhist pilgrimage tours to India in view of the coronavirus outbreak, saying these trips are mostly undertaken by elderly people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“A majority who go on these trips are elderly people who would be vulnerable to the threat from Coronavirus,” Dr Anil Jasinghe, the Director-General of Health Services said.
The religious tour, popularly known as “Dambadiva Vandana,” involves trips to Buddhist shrines in Bodhgaya, Varanasi and Sarnath in India and Lumbini in Nepal.
The Lankan government’s move is part of a host of precautionary measures following the virus outbreak which include, Sri Lankan Airlines suspending flights to China and Saudi Arabia indefinitely and all passengers coming from South Korea, Iran and Italy being sent to quarantine centres in the Eastern province.
While the virus has not claimed any life in Sri Lanka, the central bank has warned against adverse effects on the tourism and export sectors.
There has only been one reported case of COVID-19 in the island nation. A female Chinese tourist was discharged from hospital late last month after she recovered from the infection.
More than 3,800 have died and over 110,000 people have been infected globally from the virus, which by Monday reached more than 100 countries and territories.
The virus that first originated in China in December last year has killed 3,119 people and infected 80,735 in the country.