The Sri Lankan government on Monday announced a two-week halt on the sale of fuel for non-essential services as the country faced an acute shortage of supplies, the Daily Mirror reported.

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

“The cabinet of ministers decided to issue fuel only for essential services from midnight today [June 27] until July 10,” Cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardane said on Monday. Fuel will only be supplied to essential services, such as the health sector, for transportation of food, agricultural sector and hospitals, Gunawardane added.

The government also imposed a partial shutdown in the country and urged all the public and private sector institutions to allow employees to work from home till July 10 due to the fuel crisis, the Sri Lankan newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, zonal education authorities have been given school authorities the liberty to decide on their functioning.

On June 17, several public offices and schools in Sri Lanka remained closed on account of a holiday declared by the government to cope with the fuel shortage in the country.

Monday’s announcement came as the fuel supplies dwindled to barely enough for just one more day, AFP reported.

The National Transport Commission said that the halt on fuel supplies may not impact the bus service in the island nation, Daily Mirror reported.

“New filling stations were opened at Bastian Mawatha Bus Station, Colombo, and at the Makumbura Multi-modal Centre in Kottawa,” said National Transport Commission Director General Nilan Miranda. “If those filling stations receive fuel under essential services, buses would run without being hindered. If not, only limited buses would be on the roads.”

The Sri Lanka Transport Board has agreed to supply fuel to private buses from their 100 depots across the country.

The fuel crisis

On May 16, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had warned that the country had run out of petrol and said that the residents could face more hardships in the coming months. He had also warned that residents could suffer power outages for as long as 15 hours a day.

On May 24, the government raised petrol and diesel prices to all-time highs of Rs 420 (90.50 Indian rupees) a litre and Rs 400 (86.19 Indian rupees) per litre respectively.

Ever since Sri Lanka has been hit with the economic crisis, it has depended on India for fuel, medicine and food items. India has already extended over $3 billion to the cash-strapped country through currency swaps, credit lines for essentials and loan deferments.

On April 12, Sri Lanka said that it would default on its entire external debt worth $51 billion (over Rs 3.88 lakh crore) till it receives a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. A country’s external debt pertains to the money borrowed by it from foreign lenders through commercial banks, governments, or international financial institutions.

On June 16, the United Nations launched its emergency response in the country by distributing food vouchers to pregnant women in underserved districts of Colombo. The monthly vouchers are worth around $40 (around Rs 3,150) in Sri Lankan currency. It will enable more than 2,000 women to buy nutritious food.