Sri Lanka suspends fuel sales for two weeks

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Colombo, Sri Lanka:

Tight Sri Lanka announced a two-week shutdown on all fuel sales except for essential services on Monday and called on the private sector to allow workers to work from home after supplies ran out.

“As of today, fuel will not be sold from midnight except for essential services such as the health sector, as we want to preserve the small reserves we have,” said government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana.

He apologized to consumers for the shortages: “We regret the inconvenience caused to the people.”

Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 and has been unable to finance even the most essential commodities such as fuel, food and medicine since late last year.

The country is also facing record inflation and prolonged power outages, all of which have contributed to months of protests — sometimes violent — calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.

Last week, all government schools closed and state institutions were working with skeletal staff because of the dire shortage of fuel, as the government had no dollars to fund imports.

The state sector shutdown was set to end this week, but has now been extended until July 10, when Gunawardana pledged to restore fuel supplies. And the government is also calling on the private sector to follow suit.

The unexpected announcement came a day after Colombo said it will implement a token system to ration the distribution of limited fuel supplies.

There were long lines in front of the few gas stations that still had supplies.

Earlier this month, the United Nations launched an emergency response to the island’s unprecedented economic crisis, feeding thousands of pregnant women facing food shortages.

Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals because they can’t afford to eat, the UN said, warning of an impending “serious humanitarian crisis” with millions of people in need of help.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)