Avant Garde’s ‘Operation Homecoming’ turned down by Covid-19 Task Force

Request to repatriate 2,000 from Gulf by sea turned down due to high cost

The Task Force of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) has turned down a proposal by the Avant Garde Maritime Services Pvt Ltd to repatriate some Sri Lankans in the Middle East to Sri Lanka using a ship, due to high costs involved in the operation.

In a letter on September 2, to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Avant Garde Maritime Services Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi stated that “Quarantining the returnees at sea on passenger ships after PCR test in host country and bringing them back to Sri Lankan by sea. Ships will be charted by the Avant Garde.”

It further stated that Covid-19 positive cases will be transferred to special hospital ship on arrival off Sri Lanka. “Avant Garde will charter and equip the hospital ship on behalf of the GOSL in order to prevent national health facilities being overwhelmed in the event of a surge of positive cases amongst the returnee.” The company also named the ship as ‘Operation Homecoming’.

It also said that all passengers of the passenger ship will be charged per diem covering passengers stay on board and PCR test.

“Expenses related to the hospital ship will have to be borne by the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) as a social welfare measure, but contributions may be sought from leading private sector company as a humanitarian contribution to meet the expenses,” the letter said adding that, “the cost is not likely to be more than USD 2 million per month.”

It was revealed that the letter requested approximately Rs. 380 million for the entire operation.

However at the Task Force on Covid-19 meeting it was revealed that 2,000 Sri Lankans could be brought back to Sri Lanka by air and other modes at a total cost of around Rs. 180 million.

Later the Task Force decided not to approve the proposal, due to high cost, sources added.

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