Sri Lanka is running out of fuel, only essential services will operate until July 10

Sri Lanka, hit by a massive economic crisis, is running out of fuel and only essential services will operate from midnight. The list of essential services will include health, law and order, ports, airport, food distribution and agriculture. All non-essential services have been suspended until July 10 and existing fuel reserves have been reserved for essential services. The government has also introduced a token system to distribute fuel.

“From midnight today, no more fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, as we want to conserve what little reserves we have,” the government spokesman said. Bandula Gunawardana, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Schools will remain closed and employees in private offices have been asked to work from home. Government officials have been told to opt for working from home.

It is the first time the island nation of 22 million has run out of fuel. Since the beginning of this year, the price of fuel has quintupled. The last price increase took place yesterday.

The price of diesel retails at 460 Lankan rupees and gasoline at 550 rupees per litre.

There is no clarity on new oil shipments, Sri Lanka’s energy minister has confirmed and urged citizens not to queue at gas stations. A shipment was due to arrive today, but suppliers expressed an inability to deliver, citing non-commitment of payments and logistical problems. No further shipments have been scheduled as the country is short of dollars.

Sources said ministers from Lanka would visit Russia and Qatar to discuss more fuel for the country in the coming days. The International Monetary Fund is in Sri Lanka for talks on a possible bailout.

Sri Lanka has been rocked by its biggest economic crisis since independence in 1948 and has been unable to fund the import of food, medicine or fuel since late last year.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Public Administration ordered all departments, public institutions and local councils to maintain skeletal services in view of the double shortage.

“Due to the scarcity of public transport as well as the impossibility of organizing private vehicles, it is decided to drastically reduce the number of employees reporting for work,” the ministry order said.

The order came a day after the United Nations launched its emergency programme. Four out of five people in Sri Lanka skip meals because they cannot afford to eat, according to the UN. The World Food Program said it had started distributing food stamps to around 2,000 pregnant women in parts of Colombo.

Michelle J. Kelley