Sri Lanka shuts schools after virus rumours  


A view of an empty classroom after the government issued an order to close all schools in the country until April 20 as its first coronavirus case was confirmed, in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 13, 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte).
A view of an empty classroom after the government issued an order to close all schools in the country until April 20 as its first coronavirus case was confirmed, in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 13, 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

HUNDREDS of parents beseiged Sri Lankan schools Thursday (12) following rumours that the coronavirus pandemic was spreading among children, prompting the government to close schools to ease tensions.

Education minister Dullas Alahapperuma said social media misinformation had caused panic among parents at several schools in the Colombo region.

“Rumours on social media claimed a student whose father had become the first local victim of the coronavirus was infecting other students,” Alahapperuma told reporters.

Although no students were infected, the government brought forward holidays due to start from April 6, giving students three extra weeks off, the minister said.

“There is no medical reason to close schools, but we decided to go ahead because of the tensions caused by rumours spread on social media today,” Alahapperuma said as authorities announced the third case of coronavirus on the island.

Schools will reopen on April 20, a week after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. There are 4.3 million children in state-run schools. Private schools were also expected to follow government schools and close from Friday (13), the minister said.

Sri Lanka has also this week suspended visas on arrival for nationals of 48 countries, including all EU member states. Visas for Chinese citizens were halted in January as the virus crisis erupted.

All passengers from Italy, Iran and South Korea have been subjected to a two-week mandatory quarantine since Wednesday (11).