As vaccinated Australians are not permitted to travel abroad unless granted a government exemption, and must pay for a fortnight’s hotel quarantine upon flying back, the prospect of Australians holidaying in Bali again seems even more distant. But officials hope that wait can be shortened with a successful re-opening.
“We have missed Australians [so] much. We want the Australians back soon to Bali. We do hope we will see the Australians in Bali in 2021,” Cok Ace said.
He said the government aims to have the vaccination rate at 100 per cent in the three green zone communities by July, and the plan is to get Bali to 70 per cent inoculation to create herd immunity in the same month.
Bali will take visitors from countries that have had success in containing the virus, identifying as low risk Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea alongside China and Australia.
“We need foreign tourists to reactivate our tourism activities better [but] certainly we will always protect Bali people’s health first,” he said.
There is a new surge of cases in Indonesia, which has been hit the hardest of any south-east Asian nation with nearly 2 million total cases and more than 53,000 deaths. The latest spike, chiefly the delta variant, comes in the wake of last month’s Eid-al-Fitr holiday.
Bali has not escaped entirely – there were 72 new locally transmitted infections recorded on Friday and 524 active cases. But business leader I Made Yoga Iswara, the chairman of Bali’s General Managers Association, hopes Indonesia’s latest outbreak won’t dissuade tourists from coming to Bali or convince the government to delay the green zone project.
He said 1370 establishments across the tourism industry in Bali had health and safety certifications and businesses were at the outset only targeting 30 per cent occupancy levels to stay afloat.
“The pandemic is not something that will go away soon. We need to accept that it is now part of our lives, we need to adapt to it,” Yoga said. “Bali needs a starting point.”
A Work from Bali program has also been announced, allowing public servants to temporarily relocate to the island to boost domestic tourism, but there are fears about international travellers being let in too early.
Dr Windhu Purnomo, an epidemiologist from Airlangga University in Surabaya, said the reopening to foreign tourists should be postponed.
“I think we have to restrain ourselves in the condition that is still very risky,” he said.
“Look at Australia, they would immediately put a lockdown on although they only have less than five new cases. What a contrast with us, with hundreds of deaths we still have the intention to open doors for international tourism.