Colombo: Sri Lankan government has ordered the closure of the nation's schools and halted all non-essential government services on Monday, France24 reported.
This is the beginning of a two-week shutdown to conserve the country's fast-depleting fuel reserves as the International Monetary Fund opened talks with Colombo on a possible bailout.
On Monday schools across the country were shut and only a skeleton staff were present in state offices as part of government plans to reduce commuting and save precious petrol and diesel. Only hospitals and the main seaport in Colombo were operating at full capacity.
Motorists were seen standing in miles-long queues for petrol and diesel even though the energy ministry announced they will not have fresh stocks of fuel for at least three more days.
The shutdown order came last week as the United Nations launched its emergency response to feed thousands of pregnant women who were facing food shortages.
Reports also said that four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals as they cannot afford to eat, creating a "dire humanitarian crisis" with millions in need of aid.
Meanwhile, the first in-person talks with the IMF on Sri Lanka's bailout request commenced in Colombo on Monday and will continue for the next10 days.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was also due to meet visiting Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil to "deepen cooperation and assist Sri Lanka as the country continues to face its worst economic crisis," Canberra said in a statement.