Bali’s tourism industry is hoping for an uptick in business after COVID-19 social restrictions were eased for the resort island, with the government beginning to formulate plans to allow foreign travel to resume.
Indonesia plans to start opening its borders in November once 70 per cent of its target population have received at least one vaccine shot, its health minister said on Tuesday.
The country’s once-thriving holiday hotspot has been eerily quiet amid Indonesia’s COVID-19 outbreak – one of the worst in Asia – with hotels, restaurants and beaches shuttered.
But cases in the Southeast Asian nation have declined significantly in the past month after peaking in mid-July.
In an interview with Reuters, Budi Gunadi Sadikin said he was taking cues from the strategy adopted by the UK, which he said prioritised rolling out first doses and had achieved a lower rate of hospital admissions and fatalities.
“So for us we concentrate on the first dose. If we can vaccinate 70 per cent of the target population of 208 million, if we can hit 140-150 million, 70 per cent with the first dose, then we can gradually start reopening,” he said.
“And my calculation is that will be reached by November.”
The November 2021 timeline is the first time a senior Indonesian minister has committed publicly to a dateline for reopening the country’s borders.
He recently flagged possibly applying Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox” approach to Bali, which would allow a limited number of fully vaccinated foreign tourists from low-risk countries to visit without the need to quarantine.
Malaysia and Vietnam are also looking at opening up tourist havens to travel bubbles, including on the islands of Langkawi and Phu Quoc.
Currently, more than 66 per cent of people in Bali are fully vaccinated, according to data from the country’s health ministry.
On Bali, locals whose livelihoods have taken a hit during the pandemic are keen for the reopening to go ahead.
“I hope the local government here can keep negotiating with the central government to let Bali stay open,” said 55-year-old Bali resident Made Danendra.
“So that all my relatives including my kids, brothers and sisters can go back to work.”
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