Sri Lanka schools, government offices to close as transport comes to a standstill – Times of India


COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities on Friday announced a two-week shutdown of government buildings and schools as public transportation comes to a near complete standstill due to a lack of dollars to pay for imported fuel.
The Ministry of Public Administration has ordered all departments, public institutions and municipalities to maintain skeletal services from Monday in response to the dire shortage of petrol and diesel.
“Due to the scarcity of public transport and the inability to arrange private vehicles, it has been decided to drastically reduce the number of workers reporting to work,” the ministry’s order said.
Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, and has been unable to finance the import of basic necessities such as food, medicine and fuel since late last year.
The country is also facing record high inflation and prolonged power outages, all of which have contributed to months of protests – sometimes violent – in which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.
Earlier this week, authorities declared Friday a public holiday, also to save fuel.
Despite that move, there were long lines at gas stations on Friday, with many motorists saying they had waited days to refill their tanks.
The Ministry of Education said all schools have been asked to remain closed for two weeks from Monday and provide online education if students and teachers have access to electricity.
The closure order came a day after the United Nations launched its emergency response to the island’s unprecedented economic crisis by feeding thousands of pregnant women facing food shortages.
Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals because they can’t afford to eat, the UN said, warning of an impending “serious humanitarian crisis” with millions of people in need of help.
The World Food Program (WFP) said it began handing out food stamps on Thursday to about 2,000 pregnant women in Colombo’s “deprived” areas as part of “life-saving aid”.
The WFP is trying to raise $60 million for food aid between June and December.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

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