The British government is advising against “all but essential” travel to Sri Lanka after reviewing threat levels in the wake of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office changed its official advice to UK nationals upgraded its travel advice as a “temporary” measure on Thursday afternoon.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said: “Following the horrific attacks on Easter Sunday, and the ongoing Sri Lankan security operation, I have received updated advice from the Foreign Office and decided to update the travel advice to British nationals to Sri Lanka to advise against all but essential travel.
There are believed to be around 8000 British visitors currently in Sri Lanka, as well as around 10,000 expats residents there.
Officials said visitors should consult with their travel providers and insurers to arrange a timely departure from the island.
They not advising tourists to leave immediately because of congestion at the island’s main international airport, where it is currently taking up to four hours for travellers to pass customs and passport control.
Civil servants are consulting with the insurance industry, travel operators and airlines to facilitate the evacuation.
The FCO's announcement came shortly after the US Embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted a warning that people should avoid "places of worship" in the island nation over the weekend because of possible extremist attacks.
The embassy in Colombo sent the tweet after security was stepped up in the capital city and elsewhere in the country.
The tweet read: "Sri Lankan authorities are reporting that additional attacks may occur targeting places of worship. Avoid these areas over the weekend, starting tomorrow, April 26th through Sunday, April 28th. Continue to remain vigilant and avoid large crowds."