JAKARTA - Indonesia is gearing up to reopen Bali and the Riau Islands to foreign visitors from select countries this week in a bid to revive its tourism industry.
Senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan told a media briefing on Monday (Oct 11) that visitors from 18 countries would be allowed in, and that Singapore was not among the approved countries on the list.
Airports in Bali and the Riau Islands - where popular tourist islands Batam and Bintan are located - are slated to reopen on Thursday. Both provinces have among the highest vaccination coverage in Indonesia.
About 98 per cent of Bali's 4.4 million population have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while more than 80 per cent have been fully inoculated. In the Riau Islands, 83 per cent of the population have received their first shot, while 58 per cent are fully inoculated.
Indonesia, which is the worst hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia with over four million cases and more than 140,000 deaths, has said it would reopen the country cautiously and take precautions to prevent another wave of infections.
Mr Luhut said that only visitors from countries with lower levels of transmissions and a positivity rate of 5 per cent or below will be allowed into Indonesia. The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who test positive for the virus from those who have been tested.
These visitors will still need to serve quarantine on arrival, but for a shortened period of five days, said Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto at the same media briefing. Previously, foreign arrivals were required to serve an eight-day quarantine.
They are also required to have valid Covid-19 treatment insurance covering at least US$100,000 (S$135,000) and to pay for their hotel accommodation for the quarantine period in advance.
"The reopening of these places will act as a trial run that later could be replicated in other places in due course," Mr Airlangga said.
Currently, only foreigners with diplomatic or employment visas are allowed to enter Indonesia via international airports serving capital Jakarta and North Sulawesi. Others allowed in include medical workers on humanitarian missions and shipping cargo crew.
"The reopening is expected to help Bali, whose economy today is far below the pre-pandemic times, to recover," Mr Luhut said.
The government has earlier said Bali would be reopened for foreign tourists from South Korea, China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Luhut did not name the 18 countries on the approved list, but said Domestic Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian would issue a circular on the matter.
When asked about travellers from Singapore, which was a top source of tourists for Indonesia before the pandemic, Mr Luhut said: "There is a list of 18 countries that would be announced, but Singapore, I think, is not on the list because it may not meet the requirements."
He was referring to World Health Organisation guidelines for assessing the overall Covid-19 situation in a country.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has managed to bring under control its latest surge of Covid-19 cases triggered after the Hari Raya festivities in May.
The seven-day average for infections peaked in mid-July, with 50,000 cases daily. That number has plunged to 1,200 now.
Indonesia's daily death rate has similarly dropped from the seven-day average peak of 1,700 in early August to around 80 in recent days.