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Coronavirus: 5,000 Chinese tourists stuck in Bali with no flights

Airport staff checking the tickets of passengers of a China Southern Airlines flight to Guangzhou, China at the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on Feb 4, 2020.
Airport staff checking the tickets of passengers of a China Southern Airlines flight to Guangzhou, China at the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on Feb 4, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • An estimated 5,000 Chinese tourists are stuck on Indonesia's resort island of Bali after Indonesia banned direct flights to and from mainland China to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As most of the visitors were travelling on short-term tourist visas and were caught unawares by the flight ban, Indonesia said on Tuesday that it would grant extensions of one month.

The Chinese Consul-General in Denpasar, Mr Gou Haodong, met local officials in Bali and sought help to extend the stay of the stranded tourists, the consulate said in a statement on its website.

The plight of the tourists illustrates the quandary in which travelling Chinese citizens find themselves in after the outbreak of the virus - which has its epicentre in central China's Wuhan city - triggered flight and travel restrictions around the world.

Indonesia suspended direct flights to and from mainland China from yesterday, with the last flight to Guangzhou departing yesterday morning from Bali. It has also temporarily discontinued visas on arrival for Chinese citizens.

Bali is already feeling the pinch of the virus outbreak, with visitors staying away from its beaches and scenic terraced rice fields.

Chinese visitors, at 2.1 million, were the second largest group of tourists to Indonesia after Malaysians last year, according to the nation's statistics bureau.

Chinese tourists can still transit through third countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, if they wish to return home, according to the consulate.

But some of them preferred to stay on in Bali because of the coronavirus outbreak in China, The Jakarta Post reported, citing Consul-General Gou.

 

"We still don't have accurate data on the number of Chinese tourists because some of them were booked online and are staying in different places," said Mr I Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Agency.

"However, according to the consulate, about 5,000 Chinese are in Bali, and they are happy here."

Indonesia has yet to report any confirmed infection, though several people are under observation.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2020, with the headline '5,000 Chinese tourists stuck in Bali with no flights'. Print Edition | Subscribe