COLOMBO, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday urged citizens to celebrate the local Sinhala and Tamil New Year inside their homes and avoid social gatherings as the country fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents wearing a facemask walk past St. Anthony's church during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Colombo on April 11, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
In his New Year message, President Rajapaksa, while wishing citizens a joyful and prosperous New Year, said that presently Sri Lanka, along with other countries, is facing a deadly virus and hence health specialists have emphasized the importance of maintaining social distancing.
"I appeal to all of you who voluntarily rallied around to conquer any challenge faced by our country and nation, to commit yourselves now as well, to prevent the spread of this deadly virus by maintaining the social distance during this festival time," President Rajapaksa said.
"The New Year period, nourished with beauty of nature, is a festival that human beings pay their tribute to the environment and nature. We have now entered an era where the need to integrate with the environment is much felt," the president added.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his New Year message, said this new year was being held at a crucial time when, as a nation, Sri Lanka was facing a serious health threatm, adding that the threat has compelled Sri Lanka to celebrate the new year in accordance with health advice and directions.
He further urged citizens to remain indoors and practice age-old customs and traditions through simple celebrations.
Sri Lanka has reported a total of 210 COVID-19 infection cases with seven deaths. A countrywide curfew imposed since March remains in place.