COLOMBO, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka will expedite the repatriation of its nationals stranded overseas amid the COVID-19 pandemic as nearly 50,000 citizens are awaiting to return home, Additional Secretary to the President for Foreign Relations Admiral Jayanath Colombage was quoted by local media as saying on Thursday.
Colombage said the program to repatriate stranded Sri Lankans overseas is progressing well and over 20,000 Sri Lankans from 94 countries had already returned to date.
"The focus now is to bring down the Sri Lankans stranded in the Middle Eastern countries and the Maldives," Colombage said.
Priority will also be given to people stranded in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Maldives, while continuing to repatriate Sri Lankans stranded in South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Britain, Australia, the United States and China.
"We have identified around 6,000 people who are the most vulnerable, and the focus now is to bring them back during August," he said.
Colombage said they expect to bring down around 600 to 700 Sri Lankans on a regular basis with two or more flights operating to both Bandaranaike International Airport and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport situated in the south.
Sri Lanka shut its international airports in March after the outbreak of COVID-19 but said flights would operate for repatriations.
To date, the country has detected over 2,800 COVID-19 cases, out of which 2,646 patients have recovered and been discharged. A total of 11 deaths have been reported from the virus.