Watching the Phuket sandbox program, Indonesia reflects on ‘baby steps’ for Bali to reopen, Southeast Asia News and Top Stories


BALI – The Indonesian Minister of Tourism recommends “small steps” towards the reopening of Bali to foreign holidaymakers, with an official government decision probably as early as Thursday (September 30).

“My recommendation is that we proceed with caution,” Sandiaga Uno told The Straits Times in an interview on Tuesday.

“There are new variants (coronavirus) lurking. We have to take small steps,” he added.

In July, with the Delta variant resulting in infections at record levels across the country, Bali was among the first to quarantine as President Joko Widodo’s government scrambled to contain Covid-19 on a scale. national.

This brought the resort island to its knees – which would normally bring in US $ 10 billion (S $ 13.6 billion) to more than six million foreign visitors a year.

Today, hotels in the heart of once popular entertainment districts are abandoned, with their once azure pools resembling murky ponds. Shops are closed everywhere and many neighborhoods appear to be ghost towns.

But with new cases of Covid-19 creeping in Indonesia and vaccination rates exceeding those in some wealthy countries, local media have run a steady rate of reports that a small measure of rescue may be within reach.

In recent days, Mr Sandiaga has spoken about Thailand’s so-called sandbox program for the holiday island of Phuket, which allows fully vaccinated travelers who are negative for Covid-19 upon arrival to roam freely. around the island for 14 days before continuing elsewhere in the country. They don’t need to serve the hotel quarantine.

“In the test plan for opening Bali, Sandiaga uses the concept of a sandbox,” Tempo, the national daily, said Tuesday.

“Sandiaga Uno indicates that Bali will gradually reopen to foreign tourists,” said the online information portal Liputan6.

But where Phuket allows visitors to roam freely, authorities in Bali would likely draw vacationers – at least initially – to designated “safe areas” in Nusa Dua, Ubud and Sanur, fearing the infections would reappear, said Mr. Sandiaga.

“Experts say a third wave of Covid-19 is inevitable,” the Minister of Tourism added.

A sign recommending the use of the PeduliLindungi app at the Bali beach entrance on September 28, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Even so, Bali’s reopening plans reflect similar attempts before the Delta variant hits in June.

“Suddenly, boom! Delta arrived in June and we struggled to get it under control, ”Sandiaga said.

“We were just focusing on vaccinations and reducing the number of cases. “

About three-quarters of Bali’s adult population are now fully vaccinated and more than 90 new infections were detected on Tuesday, a sharp drop from more than 1,900 per day in August.

Falling infection rates have so far led to the return of domestic holidaymakers, with Sandiaga revealing that daily arrivals from elsewhere, including Jakarta and Surabaya, have fallen to 6,000.

Mr. Ricky Putra, general manager of the Six Senses resort in Uluwatu, an area once popular with Japanese and South Korean honeymooners, said occupancy this month averaged around 14%, or double that of last month.

Forward bookings suggest that will improve next month as well, Mr Putra said.

“We are expecting more guests, thank goodness,” Mr Putra told ST.

“Things are improving.”


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