Coronavirus Global situation

Indonesia looking at opening safe travel corridor to Batam and Bintan

The Indonesian province closest to Singapore - the Riau Islands, including Batam and Bintan - is the area most ready to reopen to tourists from neighbouring countries as coronavirus infections have declined and stabilised, said an Indonesian minister.

The plan is to start reopening tourist spots in Nongsa on Batam and Lagoi on Bintan on April 21, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said after a meeting with Batam officials on Saturday.

This would put Batam and Bintan ahead of the country's main tourist spot Bali, which is expected to reopen only in June or July. "Batam and Bintan are far more ready," he said.

Reopening the Riau Islands would pave the way for Indonesia to have a possible "safe travel corridor" with Singapore, Mr Uno added.

Citing President Joko Widodo's directive, Mr Uno said that international borders across the archipelago may gradually be reopened, taking into consideration how effective the efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 have been in the various regions.

Indonesia has a number of entry points through which foreign travellers may enter, such as Batam, which had regular ferry links to Singapore, Bali that had direct flights to several countries, and Manado in North Sumatra, linked by air with China.

Direct routes connect Singapore with Nongsapura on Batam and with Bintan's Bandar Bintan Telani ferry terminal.

"The Covid-19 infection number in Riau Islands province has flattened and stabilised, and in the two tourism spots Nongsa and Lagoi, there has not been any new infection," Mr Uno said. "Our hope is we could continue to keep it low and under control (there)."

Any foreign tourist entering Indonesia through the province would have to show a negative polymerase chain reaction test result and will be screened upon arrival using GeNose, a Covid-19 breath test system.

Information technology will also be used to trace and track the movement of the tourists, Mr Uno added.

As part of the preparation for the possible safe travel corridor with Singapore, the Indonesian government has ramped up vaccination on Batam and Bintan, aiming to have a total of 30,000 tourism workers inoculated by next month.

On Saturday, 1,500 tourism workers on Batam and 2,000 on Bintan were given Covid-19 vaccine jabs.

  • 30,000

    Number of tourism workers on Batam and Bintan to be vaccinated by next month, according to target set by the Indonesian government.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2021, with the headline Indonesia looking at opening safe travel corridor to Batam and Bintan. Subscribe