Bali plans with caution for reopening to foreigners in October
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by Wang Aona, Dames Alexander Sinaga
JAKARTA - The reopening of Bali may be long overdue for foreign tourists. Although no specific date has been set, October looks officially promising now.
"Bali is showing a positive trend in handling Covid-19. We are going to discuss its reopening in the Coordinating Ministerial Meeting on Thursday," said Sandiaga Uno, minister of tourism and creative economy, in a press conference on Monday.
In September, Indonesia has been showing signs of recovery from the second virus wave caused by Delta variant.
On Sept. 20, Indonesia recorded 1 932 newly confirmed cases, the lowest daily count since August last year. The virus reproduction rate and hospital occupancy rate also continued to decrease.
With the relaxation of restrictions on public activities, locally known as PPKM, "travel revenge" is expected to happen.
Domestic travellers have made their first trip to Bali before foreigners are allowed to come.
"We've seen tourists growing sharply," said Asnawi Bahar, owner of a travel agency in Bali.
According to local media, to avoid the "hard landing" of domestic tourists in Bali, the odd-even license plate rule on access to tourist attractions officially took effect from Sept. 25.
On odd dates, only vehicles with the last license plate number being odd can be seen on roads, and vice versa. It applies to both two-wheeled and four-wheeled with a motorized vehicle number.
"The traffic jam has already started, from what I saw during the three days I stayed there," said Uno in the press conference, adding that the implementation of odd-even license plate rule in Bali needs to be done to change the pattern of tourist mobility so that congestion and crowds do not occur.
Although more than 70 percent of the people in Bali have finished double-dose vaccination and there is no more red zone with the highest risk of infection, some still have safety concerns.
"This easing of restrictions and reopening of tourism must be extra stringent. The pandemic is not over yet," said Bahar.
If Covid-19 cases in Bali increase again, it will be a bad image for Bali and for Indonesia, he said.
After being delayed for several times, the reopening of Bali in a gradual manner shows that Indonesia wants to play safe this time.
Currently, Bali airport is still closed for international flights. But one thing for sure is that Bali only welcomes vaccinated tourists.
Besides, the Covid-19 contact-tracing app PeduliLindungi has been popularized in Bali's restaurants, malls, and tourism sites. The Bali government has also prepared specialized tourism packages that include booster vaccine shots.
According to Uno, the implementation of health protocols in Bali still needs to be improved.
To prepare for what's coming next is challenging.
"We'll continue to monitor the situation and to increase vigilance in the field. However, we hope that there are always plan A, B, and C," Deputy Governor of Bali Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati has said recently.