Sri Lanka schools, govt offices to shut as transport grinds to halt

WION Web Team
Colombo, Sri Lanka Updated: Jun 18, 2022, 03:38 PM(IST)

The country is witnessing long queues at the gas stations, with people claiming to have waited for several days to fill their tanks. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

As a result of the acute shortage of petrol and diesel in the country, the Public Administration Ministry of Sri Lanka has instructed all departments, public institutions, and local councils to maintain the bare minimum services starting Monday

On Friday, the Sri Lankan authorities declared a shutdown of government offices and schools for two weeks, given the public transport ground that is almost completely halted due to a lack of dollars to make payments and import fuel, reported AFP.

As a result of the acute shortage of petrol and diesel in the country, the Public Administration Ministry of Sri Lanka has instructed all departments, public institutions, and local councils to maintain the bare minimum services starting Monday.

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"Due to scarce public transport as well as the inability to arrange private vehicles, it is decided to drastically curtail the number of employees reporting to work," AFP reported quoting the ministry order.

The education ministry in Sri Lanka has also asked schools to remain closed from Monday for two weeks and continue with online classes if students and teachers have access to electricity.

The authorities also declared Friday a holiday in order to conserve fuel.

Even with several such measures, the country is still witnessing long queues at the gas stations, with people claiming to have waited for several days to fill their tanks.

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Since its Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has been going through one of the worst economic crises with no capacity to finance the import of basic necessities like food, medicines, and fuel from the end of last year. The country has already defaulted on its 51 billion dollars foreign debt and is presently in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requesting a bailout.

The country also suffers from a record high inflation along with continuous and prolonged power blackouts. These factors have contributed to the months of protests and violence calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down. 

The shutdown came one day after United Nations launched an emergency response to the country's economic crisis by providing food to thousands of pregnant women suffering from food shortages.

The UN said that four out of five people in Sri Lanka are skipping meals as they cannot afford to eat, which they referred to as a "dire humanitarian crisis" with millions of people in need of aid.

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The World Food Programme told AFP on Thursday that it had started distributing food vouchers to nearly 2,000 pregnant women in Colombo's "underserved" areas as part of their "life-saving assistance."

The WFP is also currently trying to raise about 60 million dollars for a food relief effort from June to December.

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