Sri Lanka will begin vaccinating officials from the tourism industry and investment sector against the COVID-19 virus by the end of the month as the country reopened its borders for tourists by the end of January, local media reported Wednesday.
Following a request made by Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to provide the vaccine to both the tourism sector and the Board of Investment (BoI) enterprises, which have been deemed critically important to the economy, the local Daily FT reported.
“The president, at the cabinet meeting, explained that this request cannot be met by the consignment of 500,000 vaccines which arrived in the country last week, but that it will be considered in the next shipment,” officials said.
Ranatunga said it was the dedication of these workers that had added 8.5 billion U.S. dollars to Sri Lanka’s export earnings last year, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of the country’s total foreign exchange revenue despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ranatunga said there are 14 BoI export processing zones island-wide, which houses over 250 factories with over 130,000 employees. Over half a million people in more than 1,700 factories contribute directly to the manufacturing process in the country. The tourism industry at its full strength has about 300,000 direct employees, though that number has reduced amid the pandemic, Ranatunga said.
The minister said if a program could be formulated to provide vaccines to the employees of BoI enterprises, it would help the manufacturing process in the country.
Sri Lanka began vaccinating citizens above the age of 30 years since mid-February after frontline workers were vaccinated.
The country has to date detected over 83,000 positive COVID-19 patients and reported 483 deaths.