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Sri Lanka cancels election rallies over new COVID-19 wave

Sri Lanka cancels election rallies over new COVID-19 wave

A health official arrives to collect samples from villagers during the curfew amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 18, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's ruling party on Sunday (Jul 12) called off its rallies ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections and delayed the international airport's reopening over a surge in virus cases.

The South Asian country of 21 million lifted its coronavirus lockdown in late June after declaring there was no longer any community spread of the virus.

But a swathe of cases emerged last week, including an outbreak at a drug rehabilitation centre last week that saw 253 patients test positive in a single night.

"All public meetings where the president and the prime minister were due to attend today, tomorrow and the day after have been cancelled," President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party said in a statement.

Rajapaksa's brother Mahinda is the country's prime minister.

The party said all their candidates were also told to call off upcoming public gatherings ahead of the Aug 5 poll.

Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said Sunday the international airport, which authorities had planned to reopen on Aug 1, would remain closed.

"We have decided in the interest of safety and well-being of our citizens to put off the reopening of airports," he said.

A repatriation programme that has brought home some 12,000 Sri Lankans from overseas so far would also be suspended, Ranatunga added.

The elections were to be held on Apr 25, but were postponed twice before being rescheduled for August.

The country has reported 2,605 cases with 11 deaths so far.

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Source: AFP/ta

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