Indonesia eases Covid-19 test rules for domestic travel

The rule, which also applies to foreigners, covers all modes of transportation, either by air, sea or land, in the sprawling archipelago. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA - Fully vaccinated domestic travellers no longer need to undergo a Covid-19 test in Indonesia from Tuesday (March 8) as the government eased restrictions amid a downward trend in cases.

The exemption, which also applies to foreigners, covers all modes of transportation, either by air, sea or land, in the sprawling archipelago.

Currently, fully vaccinated travellers, including those with booster shots, must present negative rapid antigen test results, while those with just one dose are required to have a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result.

A health ministry spokesman Siti Nadia Tarmizi said the easing of requirements took into account Indonesia's high vaccination coverage.

As at Tuesday, 148.6 million Indonesians, or 71.4 per cent of the targeted 208.3 million people, have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 12.8 million, or 6.2 per cent have had their booster shot.

"Those who have been fully vaccinated are protected and can also protect others. Even though they may be infected, the probability of transmission is very low because of the vaccination," Dr Siti said during a virtual press conference.

She noted that the easing of the testing regime for domestic travel was part of a bigger plan to ease restrictions as Indonesia prepares for the transition to treating Covid-19 as endemic.

"We are currently discussing with experts to make sure that we are on track towards endemic conditions," said Dr Siti, who cited some factors being taken into consideration such as the level of community transmission and vaccination coverage. "We are seeking a balance between health and non-health interests because both must synergise."

Indonesia's latest move followed another to waive mandatory quarantine for fully-vaccinated international visitors to the resort island of Bali, a major tourist destination, from Monday. Inbound travellers now have to undergo at least three PCR tests - before departure, on arrival and on the third day of their stay on the island.

Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, a senior minister in charge of the country's Covid-19 response, on Monday said that policies were being introduced as Indonesia "transitions into normal activity" and that this would occur in phases.

Indonesia reported 30,148 new cases and 401 deaths on Tuesday. In all, it has recorded 5.8 million infections and 150,831 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The government expects new daily cases to fall below 5,000 in April as two-thirds of the country's 34 provinces, including the most populous such as Jakarta, West Java, East Java and Bali, reported a decline in infections. Daily cases had soared to above 60,000 in mid-February amid a surge driven by the highly transmissible but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Monday, the positivity rate - which is based on the number of those testing positive - dropped to 9.93 per cent, the lowest in 30 days.

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