Indonesia bans international visitors for 2 weeks over new Covid-19 virus strain

Passengers at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport, in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Dec 23, 2020.
Passengers at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport, in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Dec 23, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - International visitors will be barred from entering Indonesia for a two-week period, in a bid to stem the spread of a new potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus, its foreign minister Retno Marsudi said on Monday (Dec 28).

The new regulation, effective Friday (Jan 1), comes days after Indonesia banned travellers from Britain and tightened rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to limit the spread of the new strain.

Earlier this year Indonesia banned all foreign tourists but some exemptions have been made for business travellers. The new regulation applies to all foreign visitors, except for high-level government officials, she said.

The world’s fourth most populous country has struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus since recording its first case in March, now with nearly 720,000 confirmed infections and 21,500 deaths, among the highest in Asia.

It announced 5,854 new infections and 215 deaths on Monday, with the positivity rate above 20 per cent in recent days.

In recent weeks Indonesia’s healthcare system has come under strain with hospitals on Java island forced to add more beds as emergency wards near capacity.

Senior health ministry official Abdul Kadir on Monday said hospitals were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by a possible year-end holiday infections spike, with occupancy in the capital Jakarta already reaching 84 per cent.

In West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, hospital occupancy is currently at 83 per cent, and in East Java, 77 per cent, he said.

“This means that these regions are in the red zone. The bed capacity is now in red zone. Any uptick will overwhelm hospitals,” he said, adding that 500 beds would be added in the greater Jakarta area.