Sri Lanka is planning to reopen the tourism sector in mid-June by allowing only small groups of the visitors for beginning with, a local newspaper quoted an official of the senior tourism ministry s saying.

A limited number of small groups from all over the world will be allowed for visiting and stay in the approved five-star hotels, which have put the strict safety measures in place, Secretary of Tourism Ministry S. Hettiaarachchi mentioned, as per a report in the Sunday Times.

"The tourists will be required to carry a COVID-19-free certificate issued either by their governments or a reputed agency," he said, adding that tourists would also need to wait on arrival at the airport for coronavirus testing. Individual travelers will still not be allowed to enter the country for now. The official did not mention how many people in a group could visit.

Sri Lanka Confirmed 20 Cases of COVID-19 on Saturday

Coronavirus
Workers make face masks at the workshop of a company in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Jan. 28, 2020. To help fight the outbreak of pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus, workers of local medical material companies in Hubei Province rushed back to work to make protective masks, clothing and other protective equipment to guarantee the supplies. (Xinhua/Cai YangIANS) Xinhua/IANS

Sri Lanka reported another 20 cases of the virus on Saturday, taking the total number of cases so far to 1,613, including 10 deaths. The country attracted around two million tourists last year and the sector contributes around 11 percent to the nation's gross domestic product. The Sunday Times said President Rajapaksa had discussed the proposals at a meeting on May 19 with representatives of the tourism industry.

The main tourist season typically begins in around November. If the government approves the plan, Bandaranaike International Airport and Mattala International Airport, which have been closed under coronavirus restrictions, would partially reopen. Testing facilities would be set up at the airports and private hospitals are expected to provide assistance to tourists as part of the plans, according to the newspaper report.

"The tourists will not be allowed to get off buses midway (between journeys) and will be able only to visit selected destinations where they could avoid crowds," Hettiaarachchi said. Popular sites such as the Yala national park, Udawalawe, Arugam Bay, Trincomalee and selected beach areas would be among those open for the tourists, whose temperatures would be monitored daily, the report said.

(With agency inputs)