President Joko Widodo has issued cautionary comments on the eve of plans to reopen Bali’s borders to tourists from an initial five countries on 14 October 2021.
As reported by RadarBali.com, President Widodo, speaking before a Leadership Communication Forum in Bali, advised that many aspects of Bali’s reopening were under active review and discussion.
Underlining his concerns, the Indonesian President said he did not want to see Bali reopen its borders only to witness a surge in new infections caused by the onslaught of visitors, despite the high levels of vaccination achieved on the Island. Adding: “Bali’s current situation has been explained by the Governor (Wayan Koster), so I am encouraged to decide on the creation of a travel bubble with the countries recently reviewed – China, South Korea, Japan, and the UAE. The technical details of this reopening will be explained by the Governor and the Coordinating Minister (Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan). The main point is that we shall prepare the infrastructure, medical needs, and on the 14th (October), we will be ready to open.”
October 14th Reopening of Bali Seen Practically
While recent announcements that Bali will reopen to foreign tourists on 14 October have gladdened the hearts of many, especially those working in tourism, practical issues remain. Less than one week before the 14 October reopening date, neither Garuda Indonesia nor any other international air carrier has announced a recommencement of direct flights to Bali from the five countries mentioned in the initial announcement (China, South Korea, Japan, UAE, and New Zealand). Also, still to be clarified is if nationals from the five selected countries will be entitled to a free visa on arrival or be required to secure a visa from an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate in their respective countries. Beyond the practical obstacles of a lack of flights and continuing visa complications, under current regulations, any foreign passenger arriving in Bali will be subjected to an 8-day quarantine at their own expense of a specially-designated Bali hotel.
Looking optimistically to the future while hoping for a remedy to the current very low occupancy figures of Bali hotels, Widodo said: “It is hoped that after the 14 October opening, the most important thing is that testing and tracing of visitors will be maximized.”
The President admitted the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Bali has reduced by a dramatic 95% from the peak in new cases in August. Widodo said that the high of 13,800 active cases of COVID-19 under treatment in Bali has declined to a number near 600.
Widodo continued, saying: “Hold the number of active cases to be as low as possible for as long as possible. I see there are no more ‘red zones.” This is all good, but it must be consistently maintained.”
Learning Bitter Lessons from the USA
Underlining why Indonesia needs to proceed cautiously, Joko Widodo pointed to the example of the United States where he said since June 2021, a “fourth wave” of COVID-19 has attacked that country. From only 11,000 new cases each day, the number of new daily infections surged to 177,0000. But, as of 07 October, the number of new daily cases has declined to 107,000 – a number that remains unacceptably high. The Indonesian President said the bitter experience of other nations must become a mirror to cause Indonesia to enforce health protocols and prevent the future spread of COVID-19.
Widodo underlined the importance of maximizing immunization, citing how a full vaccination program has proven effective in reducing the severity and fatalities linked to the Delta variant of the coronavirus. At the same time, the President called on local authorities to ensure adequate supplies of medicine and oxygen were on hand at all hospitals. The President added that the urgent need for medications and oxygen in Bali had been automatically alleviated to a large degree by the sudden downturn in new cases.